How to Sleep Well with a Chronic Illness

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 24 June 2019
  • 3 minute read
How to Sleep Well with a Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Danielle B Roberts. 

According to the National Health Council, 157 million Americans will be living with at least one chronic illness. An illness is considered to be chronic if the duration is three months or longer. Some examples of common chronic illnesses are diabetes, heart disease, endometriosis, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Due to the pain and restlessness caused by chronic illnesses, many people who have a chronic illness also suffer from insomnia. About 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. Insomnia too can be a chronic condition.

You are considered to have insomnia if you have or do any of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Coming in and out of sleep in the middle of the night
  • Waking up earlier than expected
  • Fatigue during the day
  • The feeling of being unrefreshed when you wake up
  • Difficulty focusing and remembering

These are just a few of the symptoms one can experience from insomnia. Insomnia can bring on its own battles as well. Insomnia can cause you to have anxiety, depression, mood swings, and more. If you have a chronic illness, here are some things to try to help your insomnia.

Help with Getting to Sleep

Getting to sleep is one of the toughest parts of insomnia. Many medications people take for their chronic illness can cause restlessness. If you can, try to take these medications earlier in the day. On the other hand, if your medication is strictly for pain relief, taking it a little bit before bed may be better, so you don’t wake up from aches and pain.

Healthline interviewed multiple people who have chronic illnesses and asked them what they do to get to sleep. Some said they will read or journal while in bed because that helps them grow tired. Others will take hot baths and meditate to begin their sleep routine.

One person they surveyed came up with a creative solution to their sleep problems. Their goal is to get as comfortable as possible so they can easily drift off to sleep. They do this by creating basically a pillow fort around them with their comfiest blankets and pillows. This gives them the necessary comfort to get to sleep.

Creating a bedtime ritual that helps your body know that it’s time for bed can be effective too. Once you’re in bed, find the most relaxing sleep position that relieves any pain you may have. To help relieve pain, you can even sleep with a heating pad pressed against your most painful areas.

How to Sleep Well with a Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

How to Stay Asleep

Once you have accomplished the difficult task of getting to sleep, another challenge is thrown your way – staying asleep. Being able to sleep through the night can be extremely difficult if you have a chronic illness that causes pain, the need to use the bathroom often or night sweats.

Make sure your bedroom is set to the best temperature for sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, that is anywhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help you avoid night sweats.

You should also block out any lights in your bedroom. You can do this by using blackout curtains on your windows, placing electrical tape over any constant lights on electronics in your room, and wearing a sleep mask.

Many people find that a soft noise machine helps them both get to sleep and stay asleep. Calming and soothing music or noises can act as a hypnotic and can be very effective.

Waking Up Refreshed

Possibly one of the worst symptoms of insomnia is waking up in the morning feeling as if you haven’t slept a wink. Even if you did sleep soundly through the night, chronic illnesses often cause fatigue during the day. It’s important for you to wake yourself up so you can be productive during the day.

You can achieve this by creating a morning routine for yourself that you look forward to. For instance, you could start your day off with journaling outside in the morning sun with a cup of coffee.

When you first get out of bed, you should expose yourself to natural sunlight to boost your biorhythm. You’ll also want to make sure you get in your first eight ounces of water of the day during your morning routine. Be sure to have a protein-rich breakfast as well.

You could work in some exercise to get your adrenaline pumping. You even could schedule the majority of your to-do list in the morning, so you don’t have any downtime to become sleepy.

If you have tried everything you can think of to get a good night’s rest, and nothing is cutting it, consider talking with a sleep specialist. They will be able to run tests and evaluate you while you sleep to figure out the best way to help you.

Author bio: Danielle K Roberts is a Medicare insurance expert and co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team of experts help baby boomers with their Medicare decisions nationwide.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

Related articles in Coping with Chronic Illness

Hope in Times of Chronic Illness

Hope in Times of Chronic Illness

Let’s Talk About Sex: How to Deal with Intimacy Issues with Chronic Illness

Let's Talk About Sex: How to Deal with Intimacy Issues with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

How to Enjoy Life to the Fullest Despite Chronic Pain

How to Enjoy Life to the Fullest Despite Chronic Pain | The Health Sessions