Chronic neck pain can leave you sleep deprived as you toss and turn all night trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. For some, this nightly battle with sleep can lead to some serious anxiety about going to bed at all, so if you’ve got secondary insomnia due to chronic neck pain maybe it’s time for a little natural help with drifting off.
Around 1 in 10 of us experiences insomnia at some point, mostly short-term, and typically related to stress due to work or family life. Sleep deprivation not only leads to mental fog and an increased risk of being involved in an accident such as a traffic collision, a lack of sleep also heightens our sensitivity to pain. For those who face sleeping problems due to chronic pain, this is a particularly nasty vicious circle.
Top Tips for Sleeping with Neck Pain
Anyone with chronic neck pain who is struggling to get to sleep needs to seriously consider cleaning up their bedtime routine in order to remove any additional hinderances to getting some quality rest. This means:
- Cutting out caffeinated beverages (at least after mid-day)
- Avoiding other stimulants such as nicotine
- Cutting out alcohol (it may help you feel sleepy but it impairs sleep quality and longevity)
- Not eating too late (or so early you go to bed hungry)
- Staying hydrated throughout the day, not just downing a glass of water at night
- Cutting out sugary foods and drinks, especially before bedtime
Making sure that your sleep environment is appropriate for sleeping in is also key. Too much stimulation, from technology, noise, and light can seriously impair your ability to get to sleep and to stay asleep for long enough to feel rested. Some things you might want to address include:
- Removing TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones from the bedroom
- Installing blackout blinds or drapes to minimise incoming light
- Installing light filtering computer software to track the sunset and reduce stimulating light waves
- Using a white noise machine if necessary
- Avoiding the gym immediately before bed
- Getting a new mattress and/or pillow specifically designed for neck pain sufferers
It’s also a great idea to get into a regular bedtime routine, such as having a soothing bath and then crawling into clean sheets with a cat to cuddle. You could also use music to help calm your mind, or a relaxation tape that takes you through a guided meditation. Those who practice mindfulness are also often better able to manage pain throughout the day.
Foods to Help You Sleep Peacefully
When all of these things are in place it may be worth looking at choosing foods that encourage restful brain activity and sleepiness. Such things include:
- Almonds – a great source of magnesium, the anti-stress mineral
- Cherries – natural source of melatonin, to help your body recognise when to sleep
- Bananas – a source of the amino acid tryptophan (which is converted into serotonin) and magnesium
- Oatmeal – typically a breakfast food but a good magnesium source and soothing to boot
- Walnuts – another great source of melatonin, as well as tryptophan.
A small bowl of oatmeal with fresh cherries, banana slices, and a handful of walnuts and almonds could be your best recipe for getting to sleep then. In addition, the magnesium content of these wholefoods can help tired and stiff muscles to relax, while the natural boost in serotonin can help soothe away stress.
People who have low magnesium status have been shown to more regularly experience difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep for a decent stretch of time. The same is true of people with low melatonin levels as melatonin tends to increase just before we go to bed and then drop off just in time for us to wake in the morning. As melatonin synthesis declines with age, and has been found to be low in many people with diabetes, those neck pain sufferers who are older or who have other medical conditions may wish to pay particular attention to this nutrient.
There are also natural herbal sleep aids available, such as valerian, hops and passiflora. While these can be useful for some of those with neck pain, it is always vital to consult a physician or pharmacist prior to taking such supplements as these may interact with existing medications or conditions. A hops pillow with a dash of lavender should be absolutely fine though!