Getting a good night’s rest is particularly difficult when you have pain. Conditions such as migraines or arthritis interrupt sleep, and lack of proper sleep can exacerbate pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.
To help Pain Resource readers rest better, we interviewed sleep expert Nancy H. Rothstein. If pain inhibits your falling or staying asleep, here are her main tips for getting the rest you need to heal and rejuvenate.
1. Breathe into the location of the pain. Inhale slowly through the nostrils, and exhale through the nose or mouth. This is a doorway to relaxation. Focus on the area of pain and give it your attention. Imagine the pain being released and dissipating. This can have a calming effect.
2. Calm yourself physically and mentally before bed. If you like, take a warm or cool bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Release muscle tension by flexing muscles one muscle at a time then letting them relax. Start at your feet, moving up to your torso all the way to the eyebrows. If that to-do list is bothering you, write down an agenda for the next day or week, then put it aside. You’ll rest more easily knowing you have a plan in place.
3. Practice being grateful. A gratitude practice is a wonderful way to transition to sleep, especially when you have pain, illness, or stress. Instead of focusing on your discomfort or what’s wrong, think of things for which you’re thankful. Go through a list of three things, silently or out loud.
4. Imaging. The mind is powerful. Use it to create recovery. See yourself as healthy, feeling vibrant and well. Set a positive intention for your rest. Repeat an affirmation that you will sleep well and wake up refreshed.
5. Practice good eating habits. Your body needs ample time to digest food before sleep so that your organs can rejuvenate. The most substantial meals should be breakfast and lunch. Try to eat a light dinner three hours before bed, and don’t drink caffeine past 2 p.m.
If hunger strikes in that three-hour window, eat a light snack (but no later than two hours before bed). Sleep-friendly foods include bananas, oatmeal, or a small glass of tart cherry juice. A cup of herbal tea such as chamomile can also induce sleep.