Sleeping Issues caused by long-term pain

Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for persistent pain

Nathan Jones Insomnia

Chronic pain refers to pain that lasts for more than 3 months, as well as beyond what would be considered normal healing time. Chronic pain is different from acute pain, such as that following an injury, which can develop quickly but passes. Chronic pain can be caused by a range of factors. These include nerve pain from a bone, muscle, or joint condition, as well as from cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, migraines, and following an injury or surgery. Whatever the cause of an individual’s chronic pain, it has the potential to affect sleep.

Sleeping Issues

What are the symptoms of sleeping issues caused by chronic pain?

Chronic pain can have a range of impacts and symptoms on an individual’s life. This can include impairing your strength and fitness, ability to complete usual activities at home or at work, mental health, social connections, concentration, relationships, and sleep.  Chronic pain has the potential to be a contributing factor to insomnia, a condition where it may be difficult to get to or stay asleep. Some symptoms of insomnia may include difficulty in staying or going to sleep, irregular movement during sleep, and feelings of sleepiness during waking hours.

Chronic pain which isn’t treated or managed in conjunction with a plan from your GP may disrupt your sleep.

What are the traditional treatments for sleeping issues as a result of chronic pain?

Firstly it is important to speak to your GP about putting a plan in place to manage your chronic pain. If your chronic pain is what is causing your sleeping issues, then it’s important that your pain management is assessed in conjunction with any sleeping problems. Some of the traditional treatments for managing chronic pain include:

  • Paracetamol and other over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants or antiepileptic medicines (which can be beneficial in treating nerve pain)
  • Seeing a psychologist
  • Seeing a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist
  • Exercise and activity within your comfort levels (such as walking, swimming, cycling, and tai chi)
  • Relaxation techniques and meditation

Medicinal cannabis and sleeping issues caused by chronic pain

If you’ve exhausted other sleeping issues treatment options and haven’t experienced any relief or improvement, it might be worth chatting to your doctor to see whether medicinal cannabis could be suitable for you.  

We spoke to Dr James Stewart, one of Australia’s leading minds in cannabis medicine who provided a medical view about insomnia and traditional treatments.

Dr Stewart is a true believer in focusing on overall health and always promotes a healthy lifestyle as the key. Click below to learn more about insomnia, and traditional and alternative treatments you may wish to discuss with a doctor.

Insomnia FAQs

What is the main cause of insomnia?

There are many causes for issues with sleep, ranging from mild to severe and can have varying impacts on your health. Anything from drinking too much caffeine to having underlying medical issues with mental and physical health can exacerbate sleeping patterns. Sometimes insomnia will only last a few days and may go away of its own accord — but this is generally when there is a temporary cause such as stress over an upcoming event, a painful experience or jet lag. Chronic insomnia is usually caused by an underlying physical or mental issue that might be helped by a range of sleep medications or natural remedies for sleep.
Mental causes of insomnia can include:
●        Anxiety
●        Stress
●        Depression
●        Traumatic experiences
●        Grief, anger and sadness
●        ADHD
Physical causes of insomnia can include:
●        Asthma or other breathing difficulties
●        Uncomfortable sleeping space
●        Lack of exercise
●        Various prescription medications
●        Allergies
●        Chronic pain
●        Acid reflux
●        Hyperthyroidism
●        Kidney disease
●        Cancer
●        Parkinson’s disease
●        Alcohol use
●        Caffeine use
●        Other sleep disorders

How do I know if I’m having insomnia?

It is often hard to differentiate between a few bad nights of sleep and insomnia — but generally speaking, insomnia will be present for more than a week and can quickly become debilitating for you during the night and your waking hours.
When your interrupted night’s sleep is making it hard for you to function during the day, this could be a sign that you’ve developed insomnia. If natural remedies for sleeping are not working and you feel you require more intervention then it is possible that you have developed a sleeping disorder. It is important to speak to a doctor to investigate if you have insomnia or a sleep disorder. If your physician finds that you have insomnia or another chronic sleep disorder, there are plenty of sleep problem solutions available.
Some symptoms of insomnia may include:
●     Waking up during the night
●     Difficulty falling asleep
●     Ongoing worries about sleeping
●     Increased errors or accidents when you’re awake
●     Waking up too early
●     Attention difficulties
●     Daytime tiredness and drowsiness
●     Depression and anxiety
●     General irritability
●     Not feeling rested in the morning
●     Problems with focus
●     Trouble getting back to sleep in the night
●     Relying on sleeping pills or other sleep medications

How can I stop my insomnia?

Stopping insomnia altogether can be a challenge as it is often a recurring problem for a lot of people. For chronic insomnia, further intervention, sleep medications or natural sleep remedies may be required to get some relief. In particular, sleep testing at a sleep centre could help to uncover the underlying causes that may be the issue.
Practicing good sleep habits can help to alleviate the symptoms of insomnia. These kinds of habits can include: 
●        Keep a consistent bedtime
●        Wake up at the same time every morning
●        Stay active with regular physical exercise
●        Check over medications to ensure they don’t exacerbate insomnia
●        Avoid napping during the day
●        Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
●        Reduce your meal portions before bed
●        Make your sleep space as comfortable as possible
●        Create a bedtime ritual that relaxes you — a warm bath, reading a book or listening to music or meditating
●        Reducing anxiety

Can insomnia be cured?

Although insomnia is a very common complaint, there are many different sleep disorders which makes diagnosis and treatment a challenge for this condition. First and foremost, you should talk to your doctor regarding any insomnia treatments. In terms of a total cure for insomnia, various medications and natural remedies can help you to get a better night’s sleep, but efficacy will differ from case to case. When we think of insomnia it is important to understand that there are many external factors that, if removed, can help enormously. A combination of reducing stress and anxiety and avoiding certain foods and drinks can be a helpful natural remedy for sleeping better. Your sleep environment and routine before bedtime are also incredibly important when it comes to creating sleep problem solutions.
While acute insomnia is often something that goes away on its own it can still have a lasting impact on each individual. There are steps you can take in order to lessen symptoms, but total eradication can be difficult. By addressing the underlying and making easy changes to your daily habits, you may start to see an improvement in your sleep patterns. There are lots of effective sleeping medications available over the counter from your pharmacist, but you should always consult your GP if you’re having ongoing issues with sleep.

What is the best relief from insomnia?

When it comes to relief from insomnia, getting a good night’s sleep is the key — but how do you get there when you find this basic daily restorative practice hard to come by. Make an appointment with your GP to find out the best sleeping medications or other natural remedies for sleep for you as the answers will vary between patients. Your GP will be able to check that whatever insomnia relief they recommended to you doesn’t clash with any medications you might currently be on.
Short-term, mild cases of insomnia can often be relieved by:
●        Meditation before bed
●        A warm bath
●        Block out curtains or blinds in the bedroom
●        Herbal tea
●        A shift in sleep routines
When insomnia has persisted for years, there could be a need for more professional support from a psychologist, psychiatrist or sleep specialist and it can take some time and effort to establish good patterns.
Helpful long-term insomnia treatments can include:
●     Cognitive behavioural therapy
●     Keeping track with a sleep diary to pinpoint the patterns
●     Exposure to bright light in the mornings
●     Mild sleep deprivation
●     Different medications during a set up of a new sleeping pattern

Other Conditions