How much you sleep and how well you sleep will affect your pain. Not enough sleep, too much sleep, and interrupted sleep will have a negative impact. The correct amount of sleep, on the other hand, will have a positive impact.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances* can:

  1. Increase your pain level or intensity.
  2. Increase your pain sensitivity.
  3. Decrease the likelihood that your pain will go away.
  4. Increase the risk of flare-ups and exacerbations.
  5. Increase the risk of getting new aches and pains.
  6. Increase how bothersome you find your pain.
  7. Increase difficulty in performing your daily activities or tasks due to pain.
  8. Increase how much you worry about your pain.

*Sleep disturbances refer to too little or too much sleep, as well as interrupted sleep.

The Correct Amount of Sleep

As an adult, you should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. When you do, the more likely it is for your sleep to have a positive influence on your current pain and any future episodes of pain. The further you deviate from that range, the more likely it is that your sleep patterns will negatively influence you and your pain. The exact amount of sleep needed will vary between people, but for most if not all of us, the ideal amount is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours.

Of course, there will be nights when you do not get enough sleep. That happens. When it does, just realize that if your pain is worse the next day, it may simply just be the result of insufficient sleep. Do not assume that more pain automatically means that the ‘issue with your tissue’ has gotten worse. Just try to get enough sleep again as soon as possible.

Current guidelines recommend that infants aged 0-1 get 14-18 hours of sleep/day, toddlers aged 1-3 get 10-13 hours of sleep/night, children aged 4-13 get 9-11 hours of sleep/night, and that children aged 14-17 get 8-10 hours of sleep/night.

The Mechanism: How sleep influences pain

As mentioned, sleep disturbances do not increase your pain as a result of further tissue irritation or damage. Rather sleep problems increase your pain because they impair the pain-inhibitory and modulatory pathways in your brain and nervous system. That is, sleep problems allow for the volume of your pain to be turned up. In some cases, the volume can be turned up so high that things which would not normally be perceived as painful become painful. The correct amount of sleep, on the other hand, helps to turn down and keep the pain volume at an appropriate level.

So, if you are looking to have a healthy, pain-free back, it is important that you look at your sleep habits and ensure that you are regularly getting enough sleep.