You wake just a few hours after falling asleep because of the pain. It typically feels like it originates from your hip and radiates down your leg. It may creep up into your lower back. It is bad enough that it often forces you out of bed. You return after a little while because you need to get to sleep, but you toss and turn because of the ache, and you arise the next morning still feeling exhausted.
This scenario is all too familiar for many. The lack of restful sleep can have numerous negative consequences in itself, the inability to concentrate being one of the least serious. Research now indicates that lack of sleep can contribute to depression, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. Finding the cause of nighttime pain is the first step to alleviating the pain and getting a good night’s sleep.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that manifests itself primarily by pain. Patients have a heightened sensitivity to pressure. Besides the pain, fibromyalgia may cause muscle weakness and spasms, gastrointestinal problems, and unproductive sleep. With the disorder, sleep seems to stimulate the brain, in turn causing pain, more awareness of the pain, and disruptions in sleep.
Apnea is a disorder in which patients actually stop breathing periodically as they sleep. A restricted airway causes the problem which can be a result of physiological and/or environmental factors. It usually must be diagnosed after spending the night in a sleep clinic after being referred by a doctor. One of the side effects of apnea is swelling of the legs, and it is that swelling that contributes to the nighttime pain.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Thanks to recent commercials for a prescription drug for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), many people are familiar with it. As the name suggests, RLS is characterized by involuntary movements of the legs. The movement temporarily relieves uncomfortable sensations in the legs. The cause seems to be an imbalance of neurotransmitters. It becomes worse at night because relaxation can actually exacerbate the symptoms, so sleeping becomes difficult.
Nerves in the lower back along the spine can become irritated, resulting in sciatica. The irritation can be caused by a number of different issues. For instance, a herniated or degenerated disc, or a spinal misalignment can cause nighttime pain. Lying down puts more pressure on the area, causing more pain. Staying in any position for a prolonged period can also aggravate the symptoms. Luckily, sciatica usually dissipates on its own within a few weeks.
The different causes of pain at night obviously have different treatment methods, but there are some universal management tips. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or other NSAIDs can reduce swelling and help reduce the pain so you can sleep. Using an ice pack, a heating pad, or switching between the two on your lower back before going to bed can reduce spasms. A warm bath can help relax the muscles. Sleeping propped up may help keep the air passageway open, and a pillow between the knees helps keep the spine aligned.
See your doctor
Any pain that interferes with your daily life should be investigated by a doctor. Pain is the body’s way of telling you there is a problem, and while the problem may be temporary and resolve itself, it is always best to rule out more serious conditions that may be the cause. Nighttime pain is not something you have to live with. Discovering the cause may help improve your quality of life in all kinds of ways.
“Causes of Disrupted Sleep.” Sleep-deprivation.com.
“Sleep Disorders Health Center.” Webmd.com.