Got Sleep? Why It’s Key to Preventing Pain (Part 2)

Ways to Obtain More Restful Sleep

         Now for the information you’ve been waiting for: tried and true methods to get a better night sleep, and now you know a reduced risk of pain onset. Learning a combination of sleep hygiene principles (good sleep habits) that work best for you, with a focus on reducing the effects of stress on sleep quality (and therefore pain onset), is a fantastic place to start. The following recommendations are referenced in the article “How to Sleep Better When Stressed” by Juliann Scholl [6].

1. Using Relaxation Techniques to Help Fall Asleep

  • Help to slow your breathing and allow you to feel calmer and prepared to sleep.
  • Mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and focused deep breathing are all great choices.

2. Eliminating Use of Screens Before Bedtime

  • Smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices (including TVs) emit what is called “blue light” which has been shown to lower levels of melatonin (the hormone that leads to feeling sleepy).
  • Wearing special “blue light” glasses that block blue light when viewing screens may help, but ultimately making your bedtime routine screen free is best.

3. Cutting Down on Stimulants and Fluids

  • Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine consumption in the hours before bedtime have all been shown to increase arousal, and therefore influence falling asleep.
  • Increased fluid intake in the hours before bedtime may also increase the frequency of needing to get up and go to the bathroom overnight. 

4. Avoid Eating Before Bed

  • Specifically, try to avoid eating at least 3 hours before bedtime, as this has been shown to also affect arousal level and metabolism.
  • If you need to eat, consume a small nutritious snack.       

5. Take a Warm Bath or Hot Shower

  • Making a bath or shower as part of your bedtime routine has been shown to cause a natural “cool-down” process.
  • This drop in temperature has been shown to mimic the natural temperature fluctuations as part of the sleep-wake cycle and may reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.   

6. Exercise Regularly  

  •  Regular physical activity reduces stress and has been shown to have a positive effect on the sleep cycle quality of sleep.
  • Exercising too close to bedtime however can elevate both arousal levels and core body temperature, so it’s best to end workouts in the early evening.

7.  Aromatherapy

  • Scents such as lavender or peppermint have been shown to have calming effects.
  • Try using lotions or essential oils on your skin with these scents as part of your bedtime routine or use a diffuser or spray to lightly scent the air of your bedroom. 

8. Try Journaling 

  • Racing thoughts from the day’s events can lead to difficulty falling asleep.
  • Setting aside time to write out worries or concerns, so they don’t follow you into the bedroom, can be a great addition to your daily routine to promote sleep.

9. Listen to Relaxing Music (or Nature Sounds)

  • Relaxing music or even just listening to nature sounds can be just the thing to help you drift off to sleep.
  • If noise at nighttime isn’t your thing, consider investing in earplugs instead.       

10. (and finally) Sleep Hygiene Basics

  • Use the bed for the two “S’s” only: sleep and sex.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and noise-free (aside from relaxing sounds of course!).
  • Keep the same bedtime routine every day (yes, even weekends!).
  • Turn off any sources of bright light (including electronics).
  • If you are having a hard time falling asleep, avoid looking at the clock.


Thanks for reading! Now go forth and try out some of these strategies for yourself to begin to achieve improved sleep and less pain! If you are still struggling with getting quality sleep, and are concerned about risk of pain onset, reach out to any of our Navigate Pain rehab professionals. We can provide you with further personalized recommendations, a customized plan and follow up support to get you on the right path to a good night’s rest and a pain-free morning.



  1. Finan, Patrick H et al. “The association of sleep and pain: an update and a path forward.” The journal of pain vol. 14,12 (2013): 1539-52. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2013.08.007 Retrieved 05/23/21 from: nihms521705.pdf

2. Lewandowski Holley, Amy et al. “Temporal daily associations among sleep and pain in treatment-seeking youth with acute musculoskeletal pain.” Journal of behavioral medicine vol. 40,4 (2017): 675-681. doi:10.1007/s10865-017-9847-x Retrieved 05/23/21 from:

3. Olson, Kern A. “Pain and sleep: Understanding the interrelationship. Practical pain management vol. 14,9 (2015). Retrieved 05/23/21 from: Pain and Sleep: Understanding the Interrelationship (

4. Elfering, Achim et al. “Impaired sleep predicts onset of low back pain and burnout symptoms: evidence from a three-wave study.” Psychology, health & medicine vol. 23,10 (2018): 1196-1210. doi:10.1080/13548506.2018.1479038 Retrieved 05/23/21 from: Microsoft Word – PHM2018 final for use.doc (

5. Whibley, Daniel et al. “Sleep disturbance as a moderator of the association between physical activity and later pain onset among American adults aged 50 and over: evidence from the Health and Retirement Study.” BMJ open vol. 10,6 e036219. 7 Jun. 2020, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-036219 Retrieved 05/23/21 from: e036219.full.pdf (

6. Scholl, Juliann. “How to sleep better when stressed.” 26 Mar. 2021. Retrieved 05/23/21 from: Tips to Sleep Better When Stressed |


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