Is pain stopping you from loving your bed?

March is National Bed Month – and who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? But for people who are in constant pain, an undisturbed night is just a dream.

Most people spend an average of a third of their lives in bed – and for those suffering an illness or injury it can be much more – but it doesn’t mean they’re sleeping soundly.

Sussex MSK Partnership East’s (SMSKPE) Pain Psychologist, Monika Tuite, says good quality sleep is essential to feeling well.

“Most of us will have trouble sleeping at some time in our life, but people suffering with long-term pain are more likely to have sleeping problems. Lack of sleep robs you of much-needed rest and can make management of an illness more difficult. It’s important to bring sleep patterns under control because you need to rest, but it can sometimes be problematic to get sleep under control.”

SMSKPE is the local NHS organisation for patients with bone, muscle and joint conditions. It also provides a pain service for patients living with chronic pain. The team offers support and advice on issues such as exercise, emotional wellbeing and getting a good night’s sleep.

Having the right mattress and pillows can enable you to sleep in positions that help keep your pain levels as low as possible. A good mattress should support you, but also be soft enough to mould to the curves of your body.

“Some people with pain tell us they have been advised to buy an orthopaedic or firm mattress but firm beds are not right for everyone,” Rachel O’Dwyer, Senior Physiotherapist in Pain Management at SMSKPE, said.

“If you have pain it can help to have plenty of room to move around in bed. If possible, this means having a single bed at least three feet wide, or if you share a bed, you need a double or king size one at least six feet wide.”

Sleeping on too many pillows or one that is too firm or too soft can cause a strain on your spine. This can lead to neck and back stiffness, arm and hand pain or pins and needles and headaches.

“Pillows should support and keep your head in line with the spine, so the spine stays straight in whichever sleeping position you use. One medium sized feather pillow should suit most people as they conform to the shape of your neck as you change position. Foam pillows tend to push against the head and neck and can create strain on your spine,” Rachel added.

“Living with constant pain is exhausting but getting a good night’s sleep can help you face the challenges of the following day. Sussex MSK Partnership East’s website offers lots of advice on sleep and rest, looking after your body and managing setbacks and flair ups.”

Visit http://sussexmskpartnershipeast.co.uk/pain/ for more information.

Bedtime tips

Do:
• Go to bed at the same time each day
• Get up from bed at the same time each day
• Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning
• Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in the late afternoon
• Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable
• Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep

Don’t:
• Exercise just before going to bed
• Engage in stimulating activity just before bed, such as playing computer games, watching an exciting program on television, or having an important discussion with a loved one
• Have caffeine in the evening (coffee, teas, chocolate, etc)
• Have alcohol in the evening or use alcohol to sleep (it may make you drowsy but it doesn’t improve sleep and you will wake to go to the toilet)
• Smoke before going to bed – nicotine is a stimulant and will keep you awake
• Go to bed too hungry or too full