Sleeping With Severe Leg Pain From Sciatica
Living with sciatica during the day can be bad enough. The searing pain you will be experiencing down your leg is enough to drive the sanest person to distraction. However, that compares to nothing if you are one of the unfortunate ones who is suffering at night as well.
I have often had patients say to me it is as if as soon as they want to go to sleep, their sciatica decides to wake up!
This can create a multitude of problems:
i) The lack of sleep makes you tired.
This is a problem because it has been shown that our perception of pain is increased and our pain tolerance decreased the more tired we are. Consequently, if you are experiencing pain which is preventing you from sleeping, it is going to make you more tired. This in turn will increase your perception of pain and decrease your pain tolerance. What is that going to do? It’s going to make sleeping more difficult, which will make you more tired… and so on. I am sure you can see how a vicious cycle results which can be difficult to get out of.
ii) Night Time is prime healing time.
It is during the night, while we are at rest, that the body’s fantastic healing process gets to work and aims to heal and replenish all that needs to throughout your body. Your sciatica will be at the top of the list for healing. However, if you are not sleeping at night, tossing and turning, this healing process is going to be interfered with. This creates yet another vicious cycle similar to that given above.
So what can you do?
If you are struggling to sleep of a night, let me firstly say do not replace your bed! Well, not yet anyway. More often than not it is either the position you are sleeping in or what you were up to before going to bed which is the problem – not the bed itself. I shall discuss the latter here…
This may sound like I am stating the obvious, but it is important to avoid any particular activities you know aggravate your pain. Let’s use sitting as an example. Sitting tends to be a classic aggravating factor for sciatica (although I except it will not be for everyone). Therefore, if you are like most of us and tend to spend much of your evenings sitting down, there is a fair chance you will be aggravating your sciatica during that time.
This may express itself as forcing you to fidget regularly just to get comfortable, forcing you to stand up because of the increasing pain or your pain may feel OK while you are sitting down, but you experience increased pain and discomfort when you go to stand up from the chair.
If you are familiar with any of these, then sitting down is an aggravating factor for your sciatica.
Consequently, if you are stirring your pain up just before going to bed, it should come as no surprise that the pain is keeps you awake at night when you go to bed shortly afterwards. This may not express itself immediately, sometimes it can be an hour or so after getting to sleep that you pain rears its ugly head.
In such circumstances, I would ask you to firstly think about the chair you are sitting in:
Is it the best for your sciatica?
Maybe it should be a little firmer?
Or possibly you need some support for your lower back?
Just have a think as to how you can make things a little more comfortable for your sciatica. It could well be that you need to try a completely different chair for a while.
In addition to this, I would also suggest you try to avoid sitting for any longer than 15-20 minutes without standing up. This doesn’t need to be an extensive break, a few steps up and down the room will be more than suffice, just give your body a chance to straighten up for a bit. If you are watching TV, when the adverts come on is a good reminder.
By doing this, it will help alleviate some stress from your sciatic nerve before going to bed, which in turn will decrease the pain perceived and therefore give you a better nights sleep. This in itself will provide your body with a greater opportunity to heal itself.
If you manage this, a positive cycle is likely to be set up, where more sleep will promote better healing, which will help you sleep more… and so on.
The example I have used here of sitting is just one of many which may be aggravating your pain. It is important you gain a good understanding of your body and are able to tell what your sciatica does and does not like with regards to its healing process.
In addition to this, I have provided a link below which will discuss the best sleeping positions for you to sleep in order to gain a good night’s sleep.