Chronic and acute pain, something that all severe burn injury patients experience, can cause sleep problems. In fact, over half of all patients suffer from sleep problems after a burn injury, according to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. Not getting enough sleep may contribute to a compromised immune system, an increased risk for mental/emotional disorders, and a lower quality of life.

How might pain affect my sleep?

Pain can affect every aspect of sleep. It can make it difficult to fall asleep, make it difficult to stay asleep, cause you to wake too early, reduce the overall quality of sleep, and even contribute to nightmares.

Psychiatrist Tracey Marks, MD succinctly explained why pain interferes with patients’ sleep: “Pain is a sensation you feel when nerves are stimulated to an intense degree. This stimulation activates the brain, which keeps you awake.”

Numerous other factors can cause sleep issues in burn injury patients:

  • The pain from the wounds can make it difficult to get comfortable and rest. This can be especially true if the burns are on the chest or face.
  • The itching that accompanies healing can interfere with sleep.
  • Reliving and constantly thinking about the burn accident can cause anxiety and make it hard to fall asleep.
  • Commonly prescribed medications for pain management can affect sleep.
  • The hormone and chemical changes that burn patients experience can cause various sleep issues.
  • Contractures can make it hard to get comfortable and rest.

What are some ways I can manage pain and get restful sleep?

Poor sleep can lead to a lot of health issues and complications. It can:

  • Affect your body’s ability to heal your burn wounds
  • Cause changes in your mood, happiness, and behavior
  • Make it harder to handle stress
  • Hamper your ability to concentrate.

In addition, not getting enough sleep can actually worsen your pain.

The psychiatric and emotional effects of pain and lack of sleep are considerable. According to a study in Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, “Greater levels of acute pain are associated with negative long-term psychological effects such as acute stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder for as long as two years after the initial burn injury.”

Fortunately, there are many practical ways, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological, to treat sleep issues. Below are some recommendations:

  • Medications (hypnotics, antidepressants, over-the-counter sleep aids, hormone replacement therapies)
  • Melatonin supplements
  • Light therapy
  • Regular, vigorous exercise
  • Relaxation techniques (yoga, breathing exercises, hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation)
  • Avoiding stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, smoking, etc.)
  • Avoiding stressful or stimulating activities just before bed (movies, the news, social media, etc.)
  • Avoiding napping and having a regular wake-up time, regardless of when you actually fall asleep
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

What do I do if my pain is affecting my sleep?

Pain and sleep issues can create a vicious cycle: you are in pain so you cannot sleep, and not getting enough sleep can cause more pain and other complications.

However, many treatments and lifestyle approaches can truly help you get better quality sleep. Simply deciding to place a high priority on your sleep has shown to have an affect on sleep. “Among those with pain, a higher motivation to get sleep was associated with longer sleep durations and better sleep quality. That’s a striking metric, indicating as many as 4.2 hours more sleep per week in motivated individuals,” reports the National Sleep Foundation.

If sleep is becoming a concern for you, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor or other burn care specialists about it. And explore your legal options, too. If a negligent party caused your burn, you may be entitled to damages for psychological and emotional injury. That’s not to mention your right to recover medical bills, lost wages, and other financial damages.

For help finding a lawyer who can help with your burn injury case, call our lawyer referral specialists at 844-549-8774.