Beat Nighttime Pain

Pain not only interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it actually disrupts the sleep you do get by encouraging your brain to wake you up throughout the night. That’s because pain and sleep share common biological pathways, says Julie K. Silver, M.D., an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. So even if your eyes remain shut most of the night, chances are your brain still isn’t getting the deep, restorative sleep it needs. As a result, you wake up in the morning feeling far from refreshed. Also, sleep deprivation actually increases your sensitivity to the pain. Yeah, you read that right. So pain = less sleep = more pain.

Want to escape from that nasty little loop and get some sleep? Here’s what Dr. Silver prescribes.


  • 1.


    When pain first raises the alarm that something’s wrong, pay attention. Precisely where is the pain? On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 indicating the worst possible pain imaginable, where is your pain? What makes your pain worse? Do any other symptoms accompany it?

  • 2.


    If the pain’s not severe—and remember, severe pain requires a doctor’s immediate intervention—keep a pain log and track the pain for a month, says Dr. Silver. Jot down when it occurs, its rank on a scale of 1 to 10, and what makes it better or worse.

  • 3.


    Whether it’s delivered as a pill, patch, cream, or injection, medication can be God’s gift to the hurting. Ranging from acetaminophen and lidocaine patches to low-dose antidepressants and muscle relaxants, the arsenal is awesome. But every one has side effects, and not every one works in every situation. Work with your doctor to find the best approach.

  • 4.


    There is no virtue in bearing pain. Its your body’s alarm system that something is wrong. So get to the person who can help you figure out what your body’s trying to say: your doctor.

  • 5.


    While you’re waiting to see your doctor, don’t aggravate your pain. If you have hip pain every time you run, don’t run. Walk instead.

  • 6.


    Try applying a hot pack to the area in which the pain occurs for 20 minutes a day.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.