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Sleeping better with painsomnia

Poor sleep is a commonly shared symptom amongst people with chronic illnesses. Those of us living with chronic pain know all too well how much pain can impact the quality of our sleep. If you’re like me, you spend hours trying to get comfortable in bed trying to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night because of your pain. This lack of sleep due to pain is typically referred to as “painsomnia” in chronic illness circles.

Painsomnia can impact your health in many ways. You probably don’t feel refreshed in the morning, making energy conservation essential during the day. Fatigue can make pain levels worse and prevent physical activity that can keep pain in check, leading to even worse sleep. Mental health can be impacted as well, especially in the form of sleep anxiety. Because yunno, stressing out over not sleeping can totally help you sleep better. If you experience any lack of sleep due to chronic pain, these tips are for you.

Strapped for time? Get my free painsomnia infographic for a quick reference, plus 4 bonus tips!

Short preview of free painsomnia infographic

Try a Sleep Podcast

When I had to take a 4 week break from cannabis, I had to try to find something else to help me sleep. I came across the Nothing Much Happens podcast on Spotify and decided to give it a try. Each episode is a short story on basically nothing, hence the title. The stories are read in a calm, peaceful tone and are designed to be non-captivating. After each story, it is repeated one more time at a slower pace.

I always set a 30 minute sleep timer on Spotify. It’s enough time for an episode and I don’t recall ever hearing it stop playing. Which means I fall asleep within 30 minutes. Unheard of for me without the use of high THC cannabis. There are plenty of other sleep podcasts so you can easily find a good fit. I highly recommend Nothing Much Happens, but if you prefer a male voice then maybe try Sleep With Me.

Use a Bluetooth Sleep Mask

When I listen to a sleep podcast, I rely on a sleep mask with bluetooth. It blocks out all light and keeps headphone cables from getting all tangled in bed. Being able to control volume, pausing, playing and skipping tracks without looking at a phone is preferable too. I used to use it for music or German lessons, but found them too distracting some nights. Nature sounds are a nice option too.

Woman with dark hair laying on a white pillow wearing a light blue silk sleep mask

Whatever you want to listen to though, totally worth getting a bluetooth sleep mask. I grabbed a random one on Amazon, which I can’t seem to find anymore. There are so many options, but they all do the same thing for the most part. Just do some quick skimming for reviews on comfort, as the actual headphones could be uncomfortable on the ears.

Invest in a Good Mattress and Pillow

This is something my husband and I will never cheap out on. Sleep is so important, you should absolutely look for quality in a mattress and pillow, not just what seems cheapest. We recently bought the Apollo mattress from and some of their pillows. It was the most expensive model, but the pillows were free at the time.

We wanted something firm, but also sink-in-able. We also needed the reinforced sides since I’m an edge sleeper and we both sit on the sides of the bed. I never wanted to shop online, but COVID got in the way. has a 120 night sleep guarantee, with free returns if you’re not satisfied, so we figured we might as well try.

King sized bed with white blanket, dark grey accent blanket, white, grey and red pillows

Having better support and a firm, but hugging, foam mattress really eases some pain in my joints, especially my hips and ribs. The pillows are adjustable, so I can get the exact height I need for my neck. This doesn’t erase my painsomnia, but it’s helping a lot more than our “old” mattress (it’s only 6 years old, what a piss off). Plus I love the slow sink. I also love that there is next to no movement transfer. I roll around so much, I screw up my husband’s sleep. Not so much with this one. I tend to not notice him get out of bed in the morning as well, so extra sleep that way too.

Keep Your Bedroom on the Cool Side

You ever try to sleeping during a summer heat wave? It can be awful and sticky, with no real restful sleep. Our body naturally tries to cool down at night to signal sleep and melatonin production. Try a cooling gel mattress topper (or a mattress with cooling built in), breathable bedding, curtains that can block heat, and/or a fan. Fans can help with tinnitus too, certainly one of the reasons we use one. I sleep way better when I’m nice and cool.

Use Blackout Curtains

If you think heat blocking curtains are a good idea, you might as well make them blackout curtains. It’s much easier to sleep with next to no light. Blinds typically don’t block enough light and now that I live in one of the sunniest places in Canada, they are NOT good enough. We close our blinds and use blackout curtains. Works like a charm. Just make sure your curtains are long enough. If you get a length that stops just below the window, a ton of light can still come in. Aim for floor length or just above the floor if doable.

Woman beginning to open dark curtains with bright light coming through

Try a High THC Product

This isn’t an option for everyone, but if cannabis is legal where you are then this could be a solid option. I personally vape a high THC strain (Red Poison or Mattego) right before bed or take a high THC gel capsule about an hour before I crawl into bed. I also keep an oral spray next to the bed just in case I wake up in the night and need some help getting back to sleep.

This is the most effective method for me. I am a medicinal cannabis patient, so I have easy access to quality products. If you’re interested, check out my brief overview of cannabis for chronic pain and talk to your doctor. You could try recreational stuff, but I really prefer the medicinal products and doctor supervision is beneficial.

Use a Sleep Spray or Cream

I got a bottle of Deep Sleep Pillow Spray from This Works in one of my FabFitFun boxes and I love it. It smells amazing, with lavender and chamomile. It is very relaxing and my husband asks me to spray his pillow quite often. I am sensitive to scents, so I usually spray my pillow before having a shower. This gives the spray time to settle on my pillow. I also received the Deep Sleep lotion in another box and it’s just as great. I sleep with my hands at my face, so it’s incredibly relaxing.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

I can’t drink coffee, I’m way too prone to tachycardia with that much caffeine at once. Tea is always an option though. I used to drink 5 or 6 large cups everyday while I was working, so from 7am to 5pm I would just keep drinking tea. I definitely knew better, but damn I love tea.

Top down view of a white mug filled with black coffee on a dark blue surface with coffee beans scattered

After several months of this, probably more, I decided it was time to cut back. I stopped drinking tea, or anything with caffeine, after 2pm. I only drink two cups now, with breakfast and with lunch. There has been a noticeable change in my sleep since I started this. I still have a hard time falling asleep, but I am tired earlier than I used to be and fall asleep a bit sooner.

Reduce Screen Time

Blue light suppresses melatonin production and messes with our circadian rhythms. Long story short, watching TV or playing on your phone at night can prevent you from getting a proper night’s sleep. Most people know this, but it can be hard to stop.

Woman laying in bed playing on her phone

I am guilty of using my phone at night, largely because intrusive thoughts keep me awake and I need a distraction. However, I use Digital Wellbeing on Android to change my screen to greyscale at night. I also used to use an app that made my screen red light instead of blue, but it drained my battery quickly. It’s not a 100% fix, but it’s better than nothing.

Keep Your Sleep on a Schedule

Sometimes your circadian rhythm needs to be reset. Try to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, even on weekends. Aim to set your schedule so that you can get about 7 hours of sleep. It can take a few weeks or so to get used to this but it could positively impact your sleep patterns. Don’t beat yourself up though if you’re not sticking to it 100%, you also have to go with what your body is saying.

Grey and white ragdoll cat sleeping on her back on a brown pet bed
My kitty knows how it’s done

For all of this and a few more tips, get my free infographic for a quick and easy reference, plus 4 more tips to get a better night’s sleep.

What helps you sleep with painsomnia? Drop a comment below and let me know what your own personal tips are.

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Painsomnia: 10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep