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The association between Poor Sleep, Depression and Chronic pain

The association between Poor Sleep, Depression and Chronic pain

| On 03, Oct 2018

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that adults who get less than 7 hours sleep at night are more likely to suffer chronic conditions such as depression diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis compared to those who get the recommended sleep duration. Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been linked with depression, with a population study showing that those who wake early have a 12 to 27 % lower chance of developing depression and those who wake early have a 6% higher chance compared to those who are intermediate risers.

While we will assume that sleep will improve when depression or chronic pain is resolved, this is not the case, according to a specialist in behavioural sleep medicine, Michelle Drerup. According to her, sleep issues remain even after one has experienced an improvement in mood and other symptoms of depression. Also, people who suffer chronic pain do not suddenly start sleeping well as soon as their pain goes away until the sleep problems are addressed. This may be because chronic pain sufferers also develop anxiety which causes the body to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, making it difficult for them to sleep. According to chronic pain expert, Dr David Hanscom, adrenaline makes the nervous system more sensitive, making individuals with chronic pain feel the pain they should not feel ordinary. Over time, poor sleep and persistent anxiety will cause depression.

So, how can you break the vicious and harmful cycle of depression, chronic pain and sleeplessness? These three tips will help you get your sleep habits under control:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

For those that are suffering chronic pain in addition to depression and sleeplessness, it is advisable to visit a therapist. The therapist will utilise the CBT technique to pinpoint what your problematic thoughts and habits are and replace them with healthy behaviours. For instance, some people find it difficult to sleep because they are anxious about sleep itself, making them more anxious around bedtime and hence cannot sleep well. The good thing about CBT is that it can also be used to tackle depression and chronic pain in case you are suffering from this cycle.

Improve your sleep environment

When you have a good bedtime routine, your brain gets a strong signal that it is time to switch off and leave the day’s stress behind. So, eliminate as much noise as possible from your room and use earplugs if it is impossible to do so. Ensure that your room is cool as a hot bedroom can interfere with sleep quality. It is also essential that the bed is comfortable to allow you to sleep peacefully. Finally, do not take work into the bedroom or watch TV while trying to sleep; your brain should only associate your room with sex and sleep.

Relaxation Techniques

There are many relaxation techniques today such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation. Try some or a combination and choose the one that works well for you.

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