How pain impacts sleep

By Lisa Ann Smalls

Pain and sleep are two vital functions our bodies need to work effectively. Pain lets us know something is wrong somewhere in our system. Sleep gives or bodies the chance to restore and revitalize itself. The problem when pain impacts sleep is that it can become a vicious cycle – chronic pain can lead to a sleep debt, and not enough sleep can make pain worse.

The problem with pain and sleep

People with pain experience disruptions to sleep that are 80 percent worse than the rest of the population. Unsurprisingly, pain can make it difficult to fall asleep as well as stay asleep. According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people suffering from chronic pain have a sleep debt of 42 minutes each night due to their pain, and people with acute pain have a sleep debt of 14 minutes per night. Over time, this sleep debt accrues. It can exacerbate a person’s pain, wreak havoc with their immune system, and even increase their risk of other chronic conditions, like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

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A recording is now available of U.S. Pain Foundation’s Nov. 26 panel discussion, “Chronic pain and the risk of suicide: A staggering crisis and what to do about it.”

The event was prompted by a study published this September in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which found that more than 10 percent of suicide cases in the United States involve chronic pain. Panelists discussed reasons behind this statistic, offer tips for coping with the mental health challenges pain creates, and gave suggestions for how clinicians and caregivers can help.

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According to a study published this September in the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than 10 percent of suicide cases in the United States involve chronic pain. We have long known that people with pain are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation–on top of physical suffering. But this number is staggering, and indicates the need for more awareness around the degree of despair pain can cause.

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Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, was one of the numerous people with pain to speak at the the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s “Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on Chronic Pain” on July 9. The event drew an at-capacity audience in the auditorium, on the phones, and through a web portal. Dr. Sharon Hertz, Director of the FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, explained to the crowd that she and her colleagues were there to better understand the impact of chronic pain, patient perspectives on current treatment regimens, and the challenges or barriers patients face in accessing treatment.

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Is chronic pain interfering with your confidence, emotional well-being, relationships, career? On May 15, U.S. Pain’s volunteer webinar will feature an exclusive Q&A session with entrepreneur, author, and advocate Jenni Grover about thriving despite the challenges of pain.

Grover is the founder of, a support network, coaching program, and blog, through which she draws on more than 15 years of experience with fibromyalgia and other conditions to teach others how to flourish despite health issues. Since 2005, she has taught thousands of women around the world to take charge of their lives through her website, videos, and speeches. She also recently published a book, “ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness,” which she will read a brief excerpt from.

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Known by many as the “Disabled Hiker,” U.S. Pain Foundation Pain Ambassador Terry Craig has completed a full-length documentary film titled A Mile in Our Shoes, which tells the story of three hikers with chronic health issues making their way through the Delaware state forest.

“I’ve spent nearly two decades teaching myself and others how to enjoy the outdoors through innovation, adaptation, and sense of community,” Craig explains. “This documentary highlights how nature can offer backpackers with varying diseases a type of healing you can only experience in the great outdoors.”

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U.S. Pain is offering three online letter-writing campaigns to urge legislators improve access to medical cannabis. Check below to see if your state is among those that don’t allow full access to medical cannabis for people with pain. Please note you may need to use your nine-digit zip code, which you can look up here.

Group 1

States: AL, GA, IN, IA, KY, MS, MO, NC, OK, TN, SC, TX, UT, VA, WI and WY

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Happiness is defined as a mental and emotional state of well-being. This mental and emotional state may often be affected by the physical pain experienced by chronic pain warriors, which is why the U.S. Pain Foundation is challenging chronic pain warriors, caregivers, family, and friends to participate in June’s “What Makes You Happy?” social media photo challenge.

Each day, you will be challenged to find a particular piece of happiness in your life and post a related photo about it. Living with chronic pain is difficult and weighs on you both mentally and physically; however, the Happiness Challenge allows everyone to take a deeper look at their lives and see all of the wonderful, fulfilling gifts everyone has in their lives. One can always find happiness! Participants will also be eligible for special giveaways.

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