Sleep: Coping with Chronic Pain & Exhaustion

Pain / Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Get up Early!

Seems crazy to suggest, but I recommend getting up very early if you need to sleep better to help cope with exhaustion from your Chronic Pain.Sleep Duration Trend_1457729244935

Since December I’ve been up at 5am or earlier, every day of the week. I go to bed usually around 8:30pm but this varies depending on my state of exhaustion.

The new sleep cycle, instead of the usual 10:30pm-6:30am routine, has allowed a much more natural tiredness>sleep routine and I feel like I haven’t sleep better in 25 years.

Note: Thankfully my chronic and phantom pain does not usually disturb my sleep, mostly due to my medication Endep 100mg. I also do not suffer insomnia.

Studies show that the need for and the duration of sleep is mostly determined by the amount and quality of the sleep in the preceding sleep period. [see this excellent video by the Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability for more; Myths and Facts about Sleep and Chronic Pain]



My Chronic Pain tends to cause a dramatic increase in exhaustion in the afternoon between 2 pm and 3 pm. This is almost always during the working week.

My strategies to cope with this are to always take a walk during my lunch break, so I hit the streets for my tattoo photography and walk around the City for 30-45mins.  This helps reset my body and mind, however after only an hour or so back in the Office the exhaustion tends to hit pretty bad.

I described to my GP the day to day pain when at work feels like I have two Butchers hooks embedded in my upper back and I’m just dangling there whilst the pain and sensation gradually increases.

I suffered a recent period at work where Monday thru Wednesday I had high pain and extreme exhaustion hit once finished work, and each night after dinner I went straight to bed.

I remember now one of the evenings I stepped out of the shower and after drying I opened the bedroom door and had this dazed state of mind where I felt like I was being drawn magnetically to the pillow, I gave into it and felt this oddly surreal state of nirvana when I collapsed onto the bed.

By the morning I was ok, but on the 3rd day of this I made an urgent appointment with my Dr, who decided to double my morning dose of Lyrica. I also saw our workplace counselor, who thought it sounded like my mind and body were reacting to workplace stress.

It’s not a pleasant feeling when you realise you have run completely out of puff, but I must admit parts of it felt a little similar to an intense drug induced haze.

Work schedule.

Thankfully my Employers are happy for me to experiment with my schedule and I started experiments with a start-time around 7am and finish 3.30 – 3.45

The commute home takes 10+30min on the train, if I have the car then its a 15min drive home from the train station, but if not the bus takes 10+30 mins.

Making use of the commute to rest on the way home is vital, however usually the bus involves waiting for outside in our hot Brisbane climate then a fairly uncomfortable ride home.

Getting home to the Wife and baby is awesome, but we realised it’s best for me to usually hop straight into the shower and finally get some relaxation before coming out for a proper play with the family.


Sleep tracking

I use a free Android app called sleepbot. I sit my phone beside my pillow then put it into sleep mode (and me!)

It uses the smartphones built in accelerometer to track and movements you make during the night, and I also use a smart-alarm feature in the app that wakes me when I’m in my lightest sleep.

It can even record sounds so your snorers could be in for a shock. I don’t like this feature but I think I’ll be brave and try it tonight. It just creeps me out a little and as my Wife Sharina comes to bed a few hours later I figured her noises would cause errors with the tracking.

Sleep Graphs

These screenshots show my sleep Movement and I find it fascinating to see just how well or poorly I slept. The app will also show Trend graphs that can show sleep length over time, distribution of what time you were asleep, went to sleep and woke up. Pretty cool for a free app.










Having an infant puts everyone’s sleep schedules into random-mode and throwing my new early bedtime into the mix means it’s almost impossible for my Wife and I to go to bed together.

We also get to see a lot less of each other, and after dinner I tend to do some photo editing or just rest on the couch, so again it’s fairly little time for any social interaction.

As a Family we do what we can cope with my Chronic Pain and these experiments and methods are shared here with the hope they can help other sufferers and their families.

What do the experts say? Further information on Sleep and Chronic Pain.
Book 7
Good sleep hygiene teaches us that we must get up at the same time every day. The brain doesn’t know its the weekend and adjust the circadian rhythms to suit!
Myths and Facts about Sleep and Chronic Pain
Published on Nov 8, 2012
Dr. Fleming reviews a variety of studies addressing the intricate, reciprocal relationship between pain and disturbed sleep. He also discusses the bio-psycho-social interventions that have been shown to be effective in modulating pain and improving sleep.

Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain/Poor Sleep/Depression/Fatigue (Alan Pocinki MD)

Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation

Pain-related insomnia versus primary insomnia: a comparison study of sleep pattern, psychological characteristics, and cognitive-behavioral processes.

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