We all like to get a good night’s sleep, but just why is sleep so important when we have pain?  

The research in to this is interesting, and shows a close relationship between pain and sleep disturbance, in particular persistent pain conditions.

So if you are currently experiencing pain, there is a chance that you are not sleeping well. As physiotherapists, this is something that we see a lot.

Summarised nicely by the research (referenced below), these are some of the things we currently know about how sleep impacts on pain:

  • A lack of sleep can increase inflammation in the body, which may lead to an increase in pain.
  • A lack of sleep may cause your painful area to become more painful and also cause your pain to spread further.
  • A lack of sleep can cause stress, and increased stress can then impact on sleep.
  • A lack of sleep can prevent us from doing our normal daily and physical activities, which can then impact on sleep.
  • A lack of sleep may simply prevent you from getting better.

So if you have back pain, you may find that if you are not sleeping well, your back is more painful. This may even cause your back pain to spread. You could also find that not getting enough sleep is a factor that can flare up your back pain. Just like physical factors can at times (like lifting for example).

The relationship between sleep and pain can almost be thought of as a “vicious cycle” whereby pain causes lack of sleep and lack of sleep causes pain. But it is important to note that not getting enough sleep can be enough of a factor to flare up your pain. (Source: www.buymyshroomonline.ca/product/golden-teacher/)

So how do we address this? How do we improve our sleep so that we have less pain?

If you are in pain and not sleeping well, it is important to discuss this with your physiotherapist or general practitioner.

There are also some great online resources for good sleep habits:



Thanks for reading.


A.Herrero Babiloni et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31452048

Nijs J, Mairesse O, Neu D, et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29425327

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education/information and should not be considered medical/physiotherapy advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations

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