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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are some tips for getting getting better sleep with chronic pain?

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  • Dr Stephen Leow

    Healthshare Member

    Good sleep hygiene is essential. Avoid taking naps during the day. Don't go to sleep too early. Remember that the body only requires a certain amount of sleep, which varies with age. The older you are, the less sleep you need. The level of pain you suffer is influenced by sleep and vice versa. There is a restorative part of sleep, called slow wave sleep, in which the body repairs irself. If normal people are deprived of this type of sleep, they will develop pain. Normal “sleeping tablets” ort tranquilisers do not give you this type of sleep. The only medication that has been shown to give you slow wave sleep is Gabapentin, which is a type of anti epileptic drug. Sometimes the “body clock” is not right. Exposure to the light frequencies in sunlight in the morning help to rest the body clock.

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  • Neil Synnott

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    I am qualified as a PHYSIOTHERAPIST and ACCREDITED EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST.I primarily use the McKENZIE METHOD for assessment and management of musculoskeletal pain disorders. The McKENZIE ... View Profile

    As Dr Leow mentioned, sleep can be influenced by pain levels and vice versa. Achieving restorative sleep is very important.

    If your chronic pain is contributed to by a musculoskeletal restriction, it is likely that a specific position for sleeping is best.

    As each person's pain is different, assessment with a physiotherapist for what is best for you is advisable.  Here are a few tips:

    • If you have pain on one side of your body (say low back), generally speaking, lying on the painful side, with knees bent up a little often helps. If needed, straightening out the bottom leg may provide further comfort…. listen to your body though… if it causes more pain, change position.
    • If you have central pain (say low back) - lying on your front with or without a pillow under your abdomen may help… again listen to your body… alternatively, lie on back with a pillow in the hollow of the back
    • If you have neck pain - try sleeping pn your back or either side with only one pillow -  maybe with a contour cut out to  accomodate the hollow between your neck and shoulders
    Hope these suggestions help!

    Regards, Neil

  • Dr Don Williams


    Don WilIiams is an internationally recognised expert in rehabilitation and sports injury management. His career started out in the late 80s with a move toward ... View Profile

    Chronic pain can be from a range of different factors and it is important to identify the cause and underlying condition. Sufficient hydration is important. Ensuring the mattress and pillow are suitable and in good condition can greatly benefit pain sufferers. Sleep position is also important, generally side sleeping or back sleeping is best, sometimes having a pillow between the knee (side lying) or behind the knees (back sleeping) can reduce the stress on the back and help with sleep. Identifying and addressing any neuroemotion issues and stress issues can also help with sleep.

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