More than half of the country suffers from acute or chronic pain—and it's taking a toll on their sleep, according to a new survey from the National Sleep Foundation. People who experience chronic pain logged an average of 42 minutes less sleep than they needed each night, and those with acute pain clocked 14 minutes less than they needed.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to a long list of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also cause issues at work, and even affect your marriage. Plus, losing sleep from pain one night makes you more likely to continue sleeping less, which can trigger a vicious cycle, according to the National Sleep Foundation. “Extremely long or short sleep durations are associated with more specific conditions, but for many people who are close to getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, getting just 15 to 30 minutes more sleep a night could make a difference in how they feel," Kristen Knutson, National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll Scholar said in a statement.
Luckily, there are options for those looking to improve their sleep:
- The first step is simple: Care about how much sleep you're getting. People who feel motivated to grab more Zzs get an average of 36 more minutes each night.
- Exercise more. In one experiment, researchers asked participants with insomnia to walk or bike three to four times per week. The results? Their sleep increased by an average of 45 minutes per night.
- Ditch the nightcaps. Alcohol wakes you up at night, interrupts your REM cycle, triggers heartburn, and doesn't mix well with sleep aids.
- Read a book before bed to help your brain wind down after a long day—but steer clear of e-readers, laptops, cell phones, and screens in general. The blue light they produce can keep you awake at night.
- Aim to stick with the same bedtime to help your body recognize and expect a regular sleep pattern.