Seven Natural Ways to Ease Nighttime Pain
October 26, 2010 by Dr. Mark Wiley
Nighttime pain is a cause of distress for millions of people. It seems that in the evenings when people are worn out from their long day and the body is shutting down its defenses, pain seems to jump front and center. And without the ability to ease the pain, inflammation, tightness and stress… getting a deep, sound sleep is next to impossible.
Without deep sleep the body cannot properly heal and recharge itself… and the next day you will undoubtedly feel worse. Here I would like to give you some easy tips and a little education about how you can ease your nighttime pain naturally, over time.
Watch Your Diet
The food we eat is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation and indigestion, which themselves cause pain. The typical American diet consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, loads of red meat and a frightening amount of processed foods — all of which are likely to increase inflammation and indigestion. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet plan consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.
Eating plenty of whole grain and complex carbohydrates, as well as consuming ample fresh water, will help your stools move, decrease constipation and limit indigestion. Adding more of the aromatic spices to dishes (like ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric and curry) also aid the body in naturally fighting inflammation and pain and helping to expel toxins. In addition, avoiding the nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant) will help, as these have been shown to increase inflammation which increases discomfort and pain.
Have a Good Laugh
The notion that laughter is good for the body has been around for thousands of years — certainly as far back as the Old Testament. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Seventeenth century English physician Dr. Thomas Sydenham remarked, "The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than of 20 asses laden with drugs." Or, as the master Groucho Marx put it, "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast."
A study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing reported that patients who were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medication was administered perceived less pain when compared to patients who didn’t get a dose of humor as part of their therapy.
Another study, this one published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, found that young girls with burns who were shown cartoons during very painful hydrotherapy said they felt less pain than similar patients who were not exposed to cartoons during the same procedure.
Aside from distracting us from pain, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that can make us feel good. So make it a point each day, and especially each evening, to laugh. Read something funny, watch something funny, think of something funny or talk to a funny person. Not only will this distract from pain and reduce nighttime pain, but it will also help relieve stress and help get you a new focus on your life.
Reframe Your Mind
Reframing the way you think of your pain is easy and it shows you that your outlook on life has a lot to do with the life you lead. Pain is simply a form of communicating information within your body.
You may say to yourself, "My back hurts, I have weak knees, they stop me from doing things and this gets me down." What you are doing is letting yourself know you have all of these problems. By focusing on the problems, you are actually reaffirming a negative cycle. Reframing helps break that cycle to bring on relief.
Step one is identifying the problem. Why is it happening? (e.g., you have had a disc problem; you were sleeping in a new bed). When is it happening? (e.g., while doing something that always sets it off). What is happening? (e.g., what kind of pain is it?). And how is it happening? (e.g., are making it worse? Is it fear-based pain where you are worried that it will get bad so you get in the mindset of being in pain?)
Step two is separating the intention from the learned behavior. In other words, you slow down to really talk to your subconscious mind about a better way to deal with the problem at hand. You might say, "Okay, I know I am having pain, but it’s not an injury, I am not my pain, it just happened today because I have been sitting all day and not moving." Thinking and acknowledging in this way keeps you focused on getting to step three.
Step three is setting the positive way forward. You can even thank your body for the message of pain, as it focused you to work with a better intention of achieving your health and long-term life goals.
You can reframe in many ways, just look at the positive view of the situation and let your mind work for you.
Get Deep, Restorative Sleep
While it is a catch-22, deep sleep is necessary to relieve pain. Yes, nighttime pain will keep you awake, but finding ways to reduce pain and over time getting the sleep you need will do wonders in the long run. During sleep, the body works to repair itself. The liver purifies blood, the muscles repair, serotonin increases. Without ample sleep, these things do not happen at optimal levels.
In our natural circadian rhythm, or biological clock, sleep is set to take over during the evening hours. We are genetically programmed to get up and lie down with the sun. So it was the invention of artificial sources of light (candles and bulbs) that began our stressed-out drive for more working hours at the expense of much-needed rest.
What’s the big deal, you ask, if you sleep only a few hours per night? You can always drink coffee, take No-Doz® caffeine pills, cat naps… life is good. Well, not really. Did you know that in clinical tests rats die within a few short weeks of sleep deprivation? And it’s not just rats at risk.
Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, attention deficit disorder, chronic migraine and headache, body aches and pain, mental illness, depression and anxiety are all in part caused — or made worse — by lack of sleep. And no caffeine pill or taurine-laced energy drink can cure these dangerous side effects of our global-economy-size workloads.
Here are seven ways to help you fall asleep and repair:
- Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6 p.m.
- Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
- Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make sure your sleeping quarters are as dark and silent as possible. Studies have shown that those in darker and quieter spaces tend to sleep through the night more deeply than others.
- Establish a sleep/wake schedule, and stick to it.
- Make a set routine out of bedtime. Change into pajamas, brush your teeth, set out clothes for the morning, even jot down any last thoughts, but promise yourself to revisit them tomorrow, then turn off the light… breathe deeply, relax, sleep tight.
- If a racing mind is nagging, slow your breath and focus on the sensation of air as it passes through your nose. This will derail those busy thoughts to help you drift off.
— Dr. Mark Wiley