Sleepless with pain?
I’d have to tell you, of all the complexities I hear about from my chronic pain patients, the most disturbing of all is lack of adequate sleep which by itself causes all kinds of health problems, even if you did not have chronic pain. So, let’s talk about how to get to bed!!
Think of sleep as a train that passes by your station every 90 minuets!!!. You have a chance to get on board only when the train is at your station, not before and not after. It means you need to prepare for sleep before you are sleepy, and you need to be in bed ready to fall asleep when you first feel that drowsy sensation. Staying on the couch, watching TV and dosing off until wee hours and then at last making your way to bed around 2,3,4 a.m is a no no !! That is like hanging around the parking lot of the train station, but not on the actual platform where the train makes its stop.
If you don’t already, develop a sleep ritual. For most people the sleep ritual consists of changing into PJ’s, flossing & brushing teeth, washing face, brushing hair, maybe even a warm shower or bath. It could also include a light book (none of those page turners that keep you up all night, certainly nothing horror or provocative). A slow melody of music can be helpful too. Take a moment and find out what type of sleep ritual you’d like to have and begin preparing for bed by doing the ritual.
Now, you must make sure that your bedroom is designed for sleep, and yes sexual activity too!! I know some people don’t mind the street noise, but hear this: back in the day of our ancestors, dark meant no activities, no cars, no stimulations, nada. So, once sleep came about, nothing would wake the creature until the first rays of the morning sun. Well, though we don’t live in that day and age, but we are still the same creatures. So, if you must have some sound, obtain a sound machine that makes nature sounds, enough to mask the street noise, or just put in some ear plugs.
Too much light is also counterproductive to sound sleep. Remember, our ancestors had no light until the morning sun or perhaps the moon light. So, see if you can only suffice to low emission emergency lights or just no light in the bed room.
Taking work related activities, lap top computers, even TV to the bedroom takes the idea of the bedroom being your sanctuary to it being your hanging out spot in the house. But it is much better to get into the habit of preserving the bedroom as a place to sleep.
Last, but certainly not the least, if you find your mind going around like a monkey jumping from one branch to the other, stop the process in the following ways. First do get out of the bed, go outside of the bedroom, maybe into your living room. Sit down with a writing pad and just jot down those thoughts. Say to yourself, “I know these thoughts are very important or they wouldn’t be occupying my mind now. I need to attend to them in the morning, so I am writing them down before I forget about them.” Then trust that the thoughts are recorded for your future attention and then hit the sac again, this time without the worry of those thoughts.
And oh one more thing: if you have been prescribed sleep medications, do be sure to take them prior to getting ready for bed. It usually takes somewhere between 20 to 40 minuets for most sleep medications to get you drowsy. So, be mindful of keeping track of the timeliness of your meds.
Remember, you can write to me at [email protected] to chat or ask questions. It is a free call!!!
G. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D. PSY 22256
Licensed Clinical Health Psychologist