We have all had nights where we toss and turn as the early morning hours pass, just praying we will soon fall asleep so we’re not cranky and irritable the next day. We generally take for granted having a decent night’s sleep, where we wake refreshed and ready for the day’s activities.
It is of course no surprise that researchers have found such a strong connection between chronic pain, sleep, and mental health. Short sleep times, fragmented sleep and poor sleep quality can all cause an increase in a person’s sensitivity to pain. Though encouragingly in the reverse, it has been shown that quality sleep in the long term may improve chronic pain. There are of course many factors that contribute to poor sleep or poor sleeping habits which we cannot cover here.
In this particular case we are speaking about unmanaged pain for almost a decade, with deteriorating functionality, increasing pain levels and decreasing quality of life. Below are the weekly average sleep statistics from the past two years. This chronic pain patient was force tapered off all pain management medication. You can see the downward trend in the average weekly hours slept over the 2 year period.
Also please note that these sleep times are not only short in terms of duration, but fragmented with the patient woken repeatedly through the night from their unmanaged pain. This constant unrest also then interferes with their families sleep patterns with corresponding consequences for their own health and sleep patterns.
Sleep deprivation is also known to cause fatigue, irritability, low body temperature, difficulties concentrating, problems with cognitive functions or mental abilities, including the ability to learn and retain information, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention span. This is just the psychological side of the equation. Then on the physiological side there is the risk of increasing comorbidities or additional conditions often co-occurring with their primary condition. Long term sleep deprivation is also proven to increase your risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, a weakened immune system and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. It also increases the risk of an early death.
Is it any wonder people that live with chronic pain often withdraw from society, friends and family and can find it difficult to even have a conversation or the capacity to mix with people when chronically exhausted and in chronic pain?
Average Hours Restful Sleep Per Week
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|4 Hrs 48 Min.||6 Hrs 34 Min.||7 Hrs 21 Min.||7 Hrs 14 Min.|
|Week 5||Week 6||Week 7||Week 8|
|5 Hrs 39 Min.||5 Hrs 6 Min.||5 Hrs 24 Min.||6 Hrs 39 Min.|
|Week 9||Week 10||Week 11||Week 12|
|7 Hrs 21 Min.||4 Hrs 59 Min.||3 Hrs 3 Min.||3 Hrs 58 Min.|
|Week 13||Week 14||Week 15||Week 16|
|3 Hrs 10 Min.||3 Hrs||3 Hrs 55 Min.||2 Hrs 13 Min.|
|Week 17||Week 18||Week 19||Week 20|
|2 Hrs 8 Min.||2 Hrs 27 Min.||3 Hrs 24 Min.||3 Hrs 1 Min.|
|Week 21||Week 22||Week 23||Week 24|
|3 Hrs 25 Min.||4 Hrs 31 Min.||3 Hrs 30 Min.||3 Hrs 35 Min.|
|Week 25||Week 26||Week 27||Week 28|
|4 Hrs 1 Min.||3 Hrs 35 Min.||3 Hrs 36 Min.||4 Hrs 27 Min.|
|Week 29||Week 30||Week 31||Week 32|
|3 Hrs 36 Min.||4 Hrs||2 Hrs 36 Min.||4 Hrs 37 Min.|
|Week 33||Week 34||Week 35||Week 36|
|3 Hrs 52 Min.||4 Hrs 4 Min.||3 Hrs 46 Min.||4 Hrs 41 Min.|
|Week 37||Week 38||Week 39||Week 40|
|3 Hrs 59 Min.||3 Hrs 49 Min.||3 Hrs 3 Min.||3 Hrs 46 Min.|
|Week 41||Week 42||Week 43||Week 44|
|4 Hrs 16 Min.||3 Hrs 45 Min.||2 Hrs 9 Min.||2 Hrs 28 Min.|
|Week 45||Week 46||Week 47||Week 48|
|2 Hrs 22 Min.||1 Hr 14 Min.||1 Hr 14 Min.||2 Hrs 13 Min.|
|Week 49||Week 50||Week 51||Week 52|
|1 Hr 14 Min.||1 Hr 14 Min.||3 Hrs 36 min.||3 Hrs 9 Min.|
|Week 53||Week 54||Week 55||Week 56|
|4 Hrs 20 Min.||2 Hrs 32 Min.||3 Hrs 27 Min.||3 Hrs 27 Min.|
|Week 57||Week 58||Week 59||Week 60|
|3 Hrs 7 Min.||2 Hrs 56 Mins||2 Hrs 45 Min.||2 Hrs 9 Min.|
|Week 61||Week 62||Week 63||Week 64|
|2 Hrs 33 Min.||2 Hrs 18 Min.||2 Hrs 32 Min.||3 Hrs 26 Min.|
|Week 65||Week 66||Week 67||Week 68|
|3 Hrs 41 Mins||3 Hrs 4 Min.||4 Hrs 27 Min.||4 Hrs 16 Min.|
|Week 69||Week 70||Week 71||Week 72|
|5 Hrs 45 Min.||4 Hrs 15 Mins||3 Hrs 40 Min.||4 Hrs 4 Min.|
|Week 73||Week 74||Week 75||Week 76|
|4 Hrs 3 Mins||3 hrs 29 Min.||3 Hrs 50 Min.||3 Hrs 43 Min.|
|Week 77||Week 78||Week 79||Week 80|
|2 Hrs 50 Min.||4 Hrs 1 Min.||3 Hrs 19 Min.||3 Hrs 29 Min.|
|Week 81||Week 82||Week 83||Week 84|
|3 Hrs 18 Min.||3 Hrs 16 Min.||2 Hrs 57 Min.||3 Hrs 2 Min.|
|Week 85||Week 86||Week 87||Week 88|
|4 Hrs 10 Min.||3 Hrs 49 Min.||3 Hrs 30 Min.||3 Hrs 45 Min.|
|Week 89||Week 90||Week 91||Week 92|
|4 Hrs 25 Min.||3 Hrs 36 Min.||3 Hrs 1 Min.||3 Hrs 32 Min.|
|Week 93||Week 94||Week 95||Week 96|
|3 Hrs 39 Min.||4 Hrs 58 Min.||4 Hrs 4 Min.||3 Hrs 3 Min.|
|Week 97||Week 98||Week 99||Week 100|
|3 Hrs 16 Min.||3 Hrs 9 Min.||3 Hrs 32 Min.||3 Hrs 12 Min.|
|Week 101||Week 102||Week 103||Week 104|
|3 Hrs 12 Min.||3 Hrs 17 Min.||3 Hrs 37 Min.||3 Hrs 55 Min.|
The above sleep figures equate for the first year to 3.8 hours average sleep per night. For the second year 3.7 hours average sleep per night. I am sure you can appreciate the fatigue, depression and mental confusion that would accompany such reduced sleeping times especially over such a prolonged period. This patient is getting an average of half the recommended 7-9 hours sleep per night. They are losing an average of 1460 hours of sleep per year!
It is unacceptable that their pain is not being managed with the broad suite of options available and they are being subjected to this sustained physical and mental torment, which as mentioned previously is proven to increase the pain level of the patient! Where is their “Duty of Care” for such a basic human need? The United Nations (UN) still recognises sleep deprivation as a form of torture: it defines torture as “physical or mental” pain or suffering. Why then are some doctors ignoring the serious consequences of sleep deprivation in pain patients and the fact that prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to an early death?
If you too live with a chronic sleep deprivation from your pain, please let us know about your experience, it is only through sharing your story that people unaffected by pain will begin to understand the devastation that this ‘collateral damage’ causes not only for the patient but their family and friends as well.