I just used my tongue to change the page of the book I’m reading.
Normally when I experience pain insomnia I wish my family and friends were awake to keep me company.
There are a few moments like these though (at 3am) when I do strange things to avoid more pain, it’s better everyone is sleeping.
Painsomnia: Slang term to describe insomnia due to pain. It is the lack of sleep or inability to obtain sufficient sleep due to physical suffering or distress.
Randy Gardner is the current record holder for the longest time to intentionally go without sleep (without stimulants). The 17-year-old stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes for an experimental study. During the study, it was reported Randy experienced serious cognitive and behavioral changes due to his lack of shut-eye. Other studies have found just 24 hours without sleep can induce psychosis-like symptoms.
Urgh. That’s not good news for partners whose puffy eyed love greets them in the morning after a night of painsomnia!
Aside from keeping sane, we all know sleep is really important for our immune system, weight control and memory consolidation. So, what can you as a partner do to ensure your loved one experiencing painsomnia has the best chance of getting rest, fitting in their jeans and fighting off your cooties? Have a look!
1. Don’t ask your partner to check the time before bed
A simple but very effective habit to encourage your partner with painsomnia to do is to switch off all technology one hour before going to bed. Light from our electronic devices tell our brain to stay awake and hold off on releasing sleep hormones because it’s not time to sleep. You could support your partner by starting a ban on electronics in the bedroom.
2. Expect strange facts in the morning (and please act interested)
Before 1am people with chronic pain are still hopeful sleep will come at a reasonable hour. After 1am that hope vanishes, the ‘no technology’ rule is usually broken and once we have finished facebook stalking, we move onto researching strange questions and topics we don’t normally have time to investigate.
3. Wear socks to bed
According to sleep experts, your bedroom should be between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius). Temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees can disrupt your partner’s sleep (above 23.9 and below 12.2 degrees Celsius).
4. Pause your favourite TV show
Painsomnia can cause anxiety and anxiety can worsen chronic pain and exacerbate sleep issues. Encourage your partner to have a set worry time a couple of hours before bed. Have your partner write down all of their worries then discuss with you their major concerns. If your partner is awake in pain and also worrying about day to day matters, you are then able to remind them of their scheduled worry time the next day.
5. Hide your snacks
Don’t assume your snacks are safe because your partner eats gluten-free, dairy-free, FODMAPS, paleo or the AIP diet. At 3am in the morning, people with painsomnia can lack some self-control and sometimes we convince ourselves that chocolate is the only thing that will get us through the night.
6. Jump on board
There are lots of healthy bedtime habits that can improve your partner’s chance of having a good night’s sleep. You can help your partner master better sleep by making these changes to your bedtime routine as a couple:
- Start a sleep schedule (go to bed and rise at the same time every day)
- Avoiding caffeine before bed
- Create a restful room (dark, cool, quiet)
- Relax before bed (bath, meditation, listen to music)
- Shorten day time naps
- Make the bed each morning
7. Give up a weekend
Schedule a shopping day to find the best bedding or sleep accessories for your partner that you can afford. You might be able to purchase an eye mask or silk pajamas for them, or perhaps an orthopedic mattress or pillows. Even a small purchase such as a worry-time book can make a big difference when it comes to sleep.
8. Buy a teddy
Don’t be surprised if your partner wants to sleep in a separate bed or on the couch. Painsomnia is stressful and the stress of not waking a loved one makes it harder to sleep. Buy a body pillow and remember, the separate bed is only so your partner can get extra sleep, or sleep at all.
9. Find support
If your partner is experiencing insomnia due to pain and isn’t linked in with a pain specialist and/or mental health professional, you could support them by finding the right professional for them in your area. Read more about why your partner might need to see a psychologist here.
With love & pain,
The Chronic Pain Couple