When you are under stress, your brain is on a Formula One racetrack. Being in chronic pain is one of the most miserable experiences of the human existence. There is hardly any strategy that will slow down your racing thoughts during the day, and it becomes much worse at night without any distractions. Aside from a diagnosable sleep disorder, insomnia is usually caused by anxiety-producing, racing thoughts.
As you more effectively process stress, your sleep will improve. As a lack of sleep is itself is a major stress, getting the ball rolling is a little tricky. Getting to sleep with meds may be the starting point. A simpler step would be to do the expressive writing exercises outlined throughout this website at bedtime. Many sleep specialists are encouraging these types of cognitive behavioral exercises at bedtime as a sleep strategy. It’s remarkable how quickly writing can slow down these whirlpools of obsessive racing thoughts. The writing has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. (1) Personally, expressive writing is the only tool I find effective for getting back to sleep if I am experiencing a particularly stressful week.
Additionally, it is very helpful to keep a notepad by the side of your bed. When you wake up at night, it is often effective to engage in the writing exercises at that time. You may initially be doing this three or four times per night. The alternative of just laying there and hoping you will fall back asleep seldom works. I received an email from a patient who discovered that using one finger to “write” on her other hand had the same benefits as writing on paper and she would fall back asleep quickly.
Sleep is a critical anchor point of successfully solving your pain. Using this simple risk-free strategy might be of great benefit.
- Baikie K WK. Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2005;11:338-346.