Sleep can be a hard thing to come by, especially when you are living with chronic pain. You’ve tried everything — relaxing music, meditation, even counting sheep! The chronic pain community has coined a new term to describe the miserable feeling of being unable to sleep when your body hurts: painsomnia.
Painsomnia is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, arthritis, and other chronic pain disorders. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help yourself sleep better if you have painsomnia. A quick disclaimer here: you should always talk to your doctor about chronic pain and insomnia, especially if you have new or worsening symptoms. The Ability Toolbox is a community by and for people who have a chronic illness or disability like you; we’re not medical professionals. But we hope these strategies our readers and editors recommend will help you relax before bedtime, fall asleep faster, and sleep peacefully while keeping painsomnia at bay.
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Relaxing Sleep Spray
Insomnia (or painsomnia from chronic pain) can take its toll. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night, trying to get comfortable but you can’t find the right spot on the bed — we’ve been there too. Anxiety can also lead to racing thoughts, especially at night time, so a gentle sleep spray spritz on your pillow before bed might be that little thing you need to help you drift off to sleep a little easier. We love these essential oil infused pillow sprays. The lavender and chamomile will relax and soothe you. No sheep required!
A Great Pillow
Good sleep starts with a great pillow. While all of our necks and needs differ, it is important not only for sleep quality but also in helping reduce headaches and chronic pain to have a high-quality, supportive pillow. We love this goose down pillow because it feels like floating on a cloud, even when painsomnia is keeping you up.
Waking up with your hair in a rat’s nest of knots is not only irritating, but for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, it can be exhausting to try and comb out the knots every morning. Enter silk pillowcases. A silk pillowcase can help keep hair tangle free, saving precious energy and spoons. The soft, natural fabric against your cheek will help you drift off to sleep despite painsomnia.
Wax Melt Nightlight
Nothing is worse than getting up in the middle of the night and having to turn on a bright light. Let the soft glow of this nightlight illuminate your way while at the same time offering the capability to use aromatherapy wax melts to help you relax and sleep better. Some people with migraines, respiratory issues, and other chronic illnesses can be sensitive to smells, so make sure to test a small amount before going for it all the way.
Hot Water Bottle
If you struggle with any kind of body temperature regulation issues or circulation problems, a hot water bottle is a must have, especially on those cold nights. Our feet are the first thing to get cold, and if you can keep your feet warm, the rest of your body will remain warmer. A hot water bottle can also preheat the sheets before you climb in and help with chronic pain. With dysregulation issues, you might have to stick a foot out from under the covers every once in a while to keep your temperature even if you are using it under the covers at night, although you can also remove it after preheating the sheets if that’s an issue for you.
White Noise Machine
The phrase ‘silence is deafening’ came about for a reason. Lying in a dark, silent room can make it hard to fall asleep simply because of the lack of noise, especially when painsomnia is keeping you awake and all you can focus on in the silence is pain. This white noise machine doubles as a nightlight (with lots of color choices!), and has 30 different sounds and even a timer. At night, our thoughts can race, and sometimes it happens even more so in the silence. Anxiety can start to build, but a white noise machine like this can help with some background noise and prevent or lessen panic attacks.
Comfy Pajamas with POCKETS
Sensory issues can cause clothes and seams to irritate sensitive skin, but these super soft lounge pants come in a lot of cute patterns. Chronic illness and disability can make getting dressed and changing clothes difficult, so we love that these are pull on and even have POCKETS. Chronic pain can keep us up all night, but we can at least try and be a little comfier!
The Ability Toolbox community loves weighted blankets — they can help with a myriad of conditions from anxiety to autism to restless legs. People report sleeping better with them so if you are struggling with sleep, a weighted blanket might be something to try. It may take some getting used to, and make sure you choose the right weight on the blanket relative to your body weight to make sure it’s not too light or heavy. A duvet is a good idea for keeping it clean, especially if you spend a lot of time in bed or on the couch and have a tendency to spill things since the duvet covers are easily washable.
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A Cozy Buddy
If you think a weighted blanket might be TOO much weight for you, consider a weighted plush animal. These cuddly stuffed animals are slightly weighted, scented with genuine French lavender from Provence, France and can be heated up in the microwave for extra comfort. Great for all ages, they also have neck wraps for sore muscles and can be used around a sore joint or tummy. When chronic pain turns into painsomnia, it can help to have a little buddy to cuddle with!
Chronic pain never ceases. It’s always there, either in the forefront or the back of your mind, always present, always painful. The next time painsomnia strikes and you lose sleep because it flat out hurts too much, we hope these ideas will make the difference between a night of misery and getting the rest you desperately need.