It’s possible that more than 50 million U.S. adults – that’s about one in five – experience chronic pain. The pain can fluctuate during the day, but for some, it is at its worst at night.
There is some data that suggest churning pain worsens at night, and in some cases, it can drastically interfere with sleep.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for two to three months, usually long after the initial onset of pain caused by an injury or illness. Sometimes the pain may even become permanent.
The pain can impact individual joints or muscles or certain parts of the body, like the back or neck. Persistent pain from conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia may be even more difficult to deal with.
Symptoms of chronic pain can vary but often include a dull ache, shooting, burning, stabbing, shock-like pain, and sensations like tingling or numbness.
Hormones could play a role in why pain gets worse at night. Your body produces less cortisol at night, which is a hormone that has anti-inflammatory effects. Another factor could be that pain may follow a circadian rhythm, like your body’s internal 24-hour clock.
Nighttime pain is particularly problematic because it impacts sleep. Not getting sleep can make pain management much more difficult. Not getting enough sleep can lead to increased cytokine production, which can make the body more sensitive to pain.
There are some strategies that may help reduce pain at night.
Implementing a pre-bedtime relaxation routine may help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Spend at least 20 minutes before bed dedicated to relaxation to slow your heart and breathing rate to reduce flare-us risk.
A warm or cold shower, gentle stretches, yoga poses, or several minutes of deep breathing are worth a try.
Reframing thoughts may also help. If you are worried about the pain or when it will flare up, it can increase stress and anxiety when you should be getting ready for sleep.
Lastly, try to create a comfortable dark and cool sleeping environment.
If you’re awakened by pain, give your body some time to recover so you can fall back asleep. Listen to soft music or read (from a book or magazine, not a blue-light screen) to help you sleep. Counting your breaths may help, too.