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How does Chronic Illness / Pain affect your Sleeping Habits

Having a Chronic Illness that causes severe pain means we often develop other conditions as a result of the Chronic Pain.  Sleeping problems appear to be high on the list of those ‘other‘ condtions that we are susceptible of developing, alongside CFS/ME, Anxiety, Depression and Stress, all of which, also, affect sleeping habits.

When we’re ‘newly‘ diagnosed, or going through the diagnostic process, we may not be aware of the fact our sleep may be affected to the extent of Insomnia, especially, if we’re not already having problems with it.  Sure, we already have bouts of depression and anxiety, fatigue and chronic pain as ‘symptoms’ when we first visit our GP’s, but at that point they don’t all come out to play at the same time!  The problem is that over time they change from being symptoms to becoming actual health problems in their own right.

Some of us, however, are already enduring insomnia like traits long before diagnosis because it can take so long for that diagnosis to happen.  As most of us are aware it is not possible for doctors to treat something when they don’t know what it is they’re treating and this is because there is always a risk of causing the patient, ‘unecessary’, further damage, or problems, if they give a treatment that is later deemed inappropriate.

Prevention is often better than a cure!

Of course this can lead to problems going untreated for long periods of time until the diagnosis is figured out.  For instance, to begin with when our problems with pain were just beginning our sleep may have only been slighly disturbed whenever the pain was flaring ‘highly’ and causing problems through the day. As years pass by the pain disturbs our sleep a lot more.   The quicker we get a diagnosis the quicker we get appropriate treatments & therapies for each element of our Chronic Illness, including for sleep!    #DiagnosisDilemmas



Other conditions that we may become susceptible to because of our Chronic Pain and / or Chronic Illness are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or, ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis)

…  which, are also known to not just affect our sleeping habits but our everyday, all day, every day habits!

The diagram below explains ME/CFS


Another aspect of our chronic illness is Mental Health as we are susceptible to conditions such as health related stress, anxiety and depression.  Again all of these have an impact on our sleeping habits and our daily habits.

If you are unfortunate to develop, ‘multiple’, Chronic Illness related disorders the combination can become quite debilitating in a number of ways.  Each llness has a knock-on effect on each other making it a viscious-cycle that becomes difficult to control.  (This type of problem would usually indicate a flare.)

After a quite a while it becomes difficult to tell ‘which’ condition is affecting ‘which’.   😮

What came first?

…   The chicken, or, the egg?


When we now look at everything as a whole it is easy to see how badly our sleep can be affected not just by our Chronic Pain but by it’s ‘Partner’s in Crime’ too. It’s no surprise, really, that we end up developing insomnia like traits.

A fantastic way to get help if you are currently at this point with your chronic pain & illness is a Pain Management Program.  The PMP helps you to earn how to manage your daily life around your Chronic pain with a holistic approach, meaning it takes into consideration your other health issues, including your mental health through teaching you how to turn negatives into positives 🙂


Americal Psychological Association Document:
Managing Chronic Pain – How Psychologists Help with Pain Management
pdf link –  pain-management


After considering your chronic illness as a whole it is now possible to track sleep accordingly knowing all the differing factors which affect it, pain, fatigue, depression & anxiety for a few examples.  Keeping a diary to map when each illness affects your sleep, why and how may help when trying to set yourself a routine to follow.


The following articles discuss the connections between chronic pain and insomnia and digresses onto explaining how we can help, ‘ourselves’, to improve both afflictions for ‘ourselves’.

Article:  4 keys to understanding chronic pain & insomnia

This first article is an interactive post like this one with links amid the text making it easy to check things out further or find out something you’re not familiar with.

There is a fantastic list of ways to help with sleep problems and also links to other articles/information.

Opening paragraph:

The relationship between sleep and pain is complex. Chronic pain can cause sleep deprivation, and the lack of sleep may heighten the sense of pain, making getting a good night’s sleep almost impossible.

 Link to article:

4 keys to understanding chronic pain and insomnia –

This is a sponsored article via Novacur – Pain Management and was written by it’s owner & CEO Dr Alex Bigham dc > Novocur pain-management



Time for a nap?

Some say it’s a good thing to do, others will disagree.

Personally, I find napping a useful tool and if I find myself needing to nap then there is obviously a reason for it…

… such as I just need to!


Article: Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

This second article is a lot more lengthy and goes into far more detail but is very educational with some very interesting reading.  I have pasted the individual chapter links just in case you don’t wish to read it all, or all in one go

In This Article:
Link to whole Article:

spine-health / wellness – chronic pain and insomnia breaking the cycle




I hope this post helps you to understand how  chronic illness  and chronic pain affect your sleep.  I also hope that the articles and links prove useful to you so that you can figure out how to break your viscious cycle?

I personally think that one of the better approaches is to and have a chat with your GP to ask for a referral to the Pain Clinic & Pain Management.  Learning to live with our pain, ‘with a holistic approach’, helps a long way to learning how to manage it alongside the other conditions so that we can have more control over them, than them over us.
There are also several pain toolkits available online but the one below is also used by NHS CHoices.
Click here to learn from Pete Moore about his ‘Pain Toolkit’ & about –  The Pain Cycle
Questions you may ask yourself:
  • Do I associate with the articles? and how?
  • How do I know whether I have a sleeping disorder, or, not?
  • Should I discuss my sleep habits with my GP at my next visit?
  • Should I keep a sleep diary alongside a pain diary to see if a pattern arises?