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Barbara's story: Good sleep despite the pain

May 09, 2014 9:11 AM

Barbara has shared her personal experience and thoughts about sleep in a previous article. Now that we have launched the community, we would like to ask you for your opinion about this topic. Here's the article again, for those who haven't read it before:


I do not know how to express my need for good sleep. If I get a good night of sleep, I can handle my pain so much better. I am sure we all have this need and are also aware of how difficult it is to get good sleep when you are dealing with chronic pain. Sleep medicines can do the trick, but should only be done under the supervision of your doctor. Even over-the-counter (OTC) are not to be used without care. These medications may help you sleep, but if you take them for an extended period of time and stop, your problem will be worse. This is called the rebound effect. Even the OTC variety can give you a 'hangover' the next day. The search for a good sleep medicine, without dangerous side effects, is an ongoing search in the pharmaceutical world.


Those individuals dealing with chronic pain are usually not able to get in the heavy-duty exercise that will bring on sleep naturally. For some, just walking from room to room is a challenge. I am in a classroom for 5 hours 3 days a week. I am fine while in the classroom, as teaching is my passion, but as soon as I leave there my feet and legs feel as if they are made of lead. To be physically able to do this I need 9-10 hours of sleep. (...) Meditation, the soft sound of the waves and even a mp3 hypnosis app make up my arsenal for getting to sleep. This is after I strap on my Oracle sleep mask, hook it up to the hose and turn on the machine. (...)


I know I have not given you any real revealing bits of knowledge about sleep here, other than mentioning its importance. Outside of your pain regimen, this is the one other area that must be discussed and strictly followed according to the directions of your doctor.


In the near future, a resource page will be put together with listing of videos, apps, and other activities that can help us on our journey with this thing called chronic pain. If you know of one, use one and like it… share it with us to be put on the list. We are in this journey together. Yes, we are all on different levels, but it is still the same journey and sharing what we know with each other is a good thing.


Barbara Zarrella, Florida, USA



What is your experience? Do you have any tips on how to get some good sleep?

May 09, 2014 4:50 PM

I spend a lot on my bedding to make it more comfortable. I have a memory foam on top of my mattress . I buy 600 ct sheets like the ones from belk. they are the biltmore brand. I also buy a very light soft furry like comforter like the one in the young adult section at walmart. All of these things make me very comfortable. I have pain on one side so I try to sleep on the other side. maybe you could drink some sleepy time tea. you can buy it at walmart. hope this helps.

May 10, 2014 8:39 PM

I have cervical neck nerve irratation and the pins and needles were keeping me awake at night. I tried changing pillows and added a memory foam topper. what has really made a difference is the Pregabalin at night that my neurologist prescribed me. although I find it hard to get off to sleep and sleep to many hours once asleep, the sleep that I get is deep, restful and of course mainly pain free. which is a relief from the daily onslaught of health problems and corisponding pain with it. it helps me to cope with the pain cos I know I will be pain free at night and get the rest and brake from pain, so I can cope with each next day! all I know about it is that it is used for nerve pain specifically. don t know if it is useful for you but hope it you find something that works.

May 11, 2014 7:47 PM

I am using the herb, valerian. I take one in the early evening and one at bedtime. They do not deal will the issue. I might ask my Dr. about Pregablin. I made a frame to keep my sheets off my feet and that helps. I also use a contour pillow. it has a wedge that raises my head and then my knees are raised. because of lumbar pain I have to sleep on my back and this 'contour back pillow' sure helps. it is nice to be able to share experiences. I like good sheets also!

May 18, 2014 7:48 PM

I suffer from chronic pain and as a result I get very little sleep. I take sleeping pills, Zopiclone, 5mg, about once every 3 days. Its once every 3 days because usually I will go 3 days with only sleeping 2 or 3 hours a night and I am exhausted but still can't sleep without the aid of medicine.
The sleeping pills allow me usually 5 or 6 hours sleep, but not always. I almost always awake feeling very medicated and that can last until mid-day.
I have used Gravol to help sleep and it can work to allow me 4 to 5 hours sleep and I do awake medicated but it leaves my blood stream sooner than the sleeping pills.
I tried Valerian and it did nothing for me.

Jun 07, 2014 6:35 PM

I use a contour sleep system that lays on the mattress and keeps my legs and head in a good position. I also am on low dose of Amitryptiline and take 3mg of Melotonin about 7 pm every night. even with a husband and three dogs in bed with me I sleep very well (and one sleeps on my chest. Fortunately she's very tiny and my chronic pain is headache and, if I sleep flat, lower back.)

I also do exercise nearly every day, which helps not only with sleep but also with pain. Sometimes it is hard to get out there when the pain level is high, but the release of dopamines and endorphins are a huge benefit. I'm a long distance runner who had a subarachnoid hemorrhage 2.5 years ago and have had an almost nonstop headache ever since. a long run is the ONLY time I can ever guarantee a respite from the pain. it takes a few miles to get there, but during a marathon I can have 2-4 hours pain free and that is the only time I get that.

Jun 07, 2014 6:35 PM

I use a contour sleep system that lays on the mattress and keeps my legs and head in a good position. I also am on low dose of Amitryptiline and take 3mg of Melotonin about 7 pm every night. even with a husband and three dogs in bed with me I sleep very well (and one sleeps on my chest. Fortunately she's very tiny and my chronic pain is headache and, if I sleep flat, lower back.)

I also do exercise nearly every day, which helps not only with sleep but also with pain. Sometimes it is hard to get out there when the pain level is high, but the release of dopamines and endorphins are a huge benefit. I'm a long distance runner who had a subarachnoid hemorrhage 2.5 years ago and have had an almost nonstop headache ever since. a long run is the ONLY time I can ever guarantee a respite from the pain. it takes a few miles to get there, but during a marathon I can have 2-4 hours pain free and that is the only time I get that.

Jun 07, 2014 6:52 PM

That contour sleep set up sounds like mine. My head is raised and then my knees and feet are also. I have sleep apnea and my pressure can be lower if my head is raised. I was on Amitryptoline for a while. RUN! My feet say no! I am able to walk and I am trying to increase my distance. Nonstop headache does not sound like fun.

Jul 05, 2014 8:09 AM

I have chronic chest and upper back pain but also had a low back fusion a year ago. We decided to invest in an adjustable split king memory foam bed. now the tempurpedic ones cost 3-40000$ which I didn't have. Hiwever we got something almost identicle from Costco and cost maybe $1000. Very much worth it given each side of the bed adjusts independently so I'm not constantly affecting my hubby's sleep. I also have a nice memory foam body pillow I place behind my back when I sleep on my side. On top of all that, sleep hygiene seems to be the single most important thing for me. Even if I'm not tired or am exhausted in the morning I go to bed and get up same time everyday. hope this helps! I used to only get maybe 2 hrs sleep a night now I get on ave 9 hrs.

Jul 20, 2014 11:15 PM

I'm currently following a MOOC (an online course called, "Preventing Chronic Pain - A Human Systems Approach" from the Univ. of Minnesota. It's been going for a while and finishes August 1st, but if you can still join, which I think you can, you would have all the videos from all the lectures to watch, plus the quizzes and discussion groups. It's an excellent program. it's at the Coursera website, and it will be offered again in the future. It takes a wholistic approach to chronic pain, one thing you learn is how prevalent chronic pain is.
Another MOOC (Massive open online course), that I've just finished is "Being a resilient person" at Edx courses. It too will probably be offered again. Though it's not specifically geared to people with chronic pain, it does have a lot to say about living a healthy lifestyle, and when you develop chronic pain I think you need all the help you can get.
I would recommend the MOOCs in general, they have a lot of good MOOCs on health, diet etc. mental health. You can just browse through those on offer and sign up for any that interest you, the ones I have used are: Edx. Coursera, and Future Learn, and they are all good, but there are others.

Jul 26, 2014 10:13 AM

Exercise is the key to staying alive. Without it our bodies will begin to age faster than normal and you will lose essential muscle mass. Weakness will become overwhelming and pain levels will increase.

I make a point of exercising small amounts multiple times a day and its sustains my existence. At one point I was afraid to exercise because it caused me so much pain, and it still can. But I have to think through the pain or even better, don't focus on the pain. I use breathing techniques concentrating on my breathing which takes my mind off the pain. I also watch my favourite tv programs while walking on the treadmill, this too will help me to forget the pain. For some, using music can help with exercising and avoiding focusing on the pain. Get some earbuds and turn up your favourite music, preferably high intensity music and get lost in the songs. Find your happy place in your mind, this will help pass the time and will make your brain happier.

Make sure you don't over do it, learn to listen to your body and make notes on CatchMyPain on what type of exercises you did and how much you didn. Use the graphs on this program to better understand the pain levels you encounter during exercises and how long it takes to recover. If you are experiencing too much pain or taking too long to recover, then adjust your program, maybe do less at a time and spread it out through the day more.

If you have severe physical issues, then you should consult professionals on what exercises are best suited for you. If you can't afford the professionals or its just not convenient to see one, then use the internet to see what might be best for you. Forums like this can be great sources of information, so share what works for you others may benefit.

The neurosurgeon told me to keep walking and that great information probably cost a small fortune but its true. I walk for exercise, I walk small amounts multiple times a day. It makes a difference in how I feel. When I keep moving, my moods are better and I look better.

Flexibility is key to longevity, so stay as nimble as you can. Tai Chi is a good method for low impact exercise that will maintain or improve your flexibility. Or low impact yoga but be careful with that if you have spinal issues.

I also find that if you have back problems that you need to maintain strong abdominal muscles. Weak abs can put you at risk of further back injuries as your posture is using your back muscles more than your abs putting you at risk of injuring a muscle causing muscle spasms. I can't do ab exercises at this point but when I did, I only did them using one of the ab devices that rocked with with your crunching motion, it took the strain off my back and concentrated more on the stomach muscles. That additional support allowed me to do ab exercises daily.

Keeping Fit = Staying Young.................keep moving, no matter what, keep moving.

Jul 26, 2014 10:15 AM

Sorry, I posted the previous Reply to the incorrect posting, it was intended to be with the Barbara's Story: Perseverance

Jul 26, 2014 5:41 PM

Craig...exercise helps sleep. Lots of rain here so I am not walking. Sleep is worse. I need to get my old 'ski type' Nordic Trac out.

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