Bedtime Ailments That May Get in the Way of Your Sleep

7 min read

Last Modified 1 June 2023 First Added 14 October 2022

By Sammy Margo

Sammy Margo

We all want to get a good night’s sleep. It sets us up properly for the day ahead, lifts our mood, and even helps us be healthier. Sometimes, however, we just can’t drift off because something else is plaguing us. That’s when we need to understand what’s causing the problem. To help you out, we’ve gone over some key problem areas that cause sleep issues, and a few tips on finding comfort so that you can get enough rest.

How sleep helps us heal

Before we get into the issues, let’s try to understand how sleep helps us heal. We know it’s important to rest when we’re going through illness, be it something acute like a broken bone, something chronic like back pain, or something smaller like a cold. Sleep helps boost our natural immunity and speeds up the healing process, which is why people have written about how sleep heals illness in detail.

This isn’t just hearsay or an old wives’ tale passed down, though. Studies have shown that sleep inhibits the production of cortisol, the chemical linked to stress, but other factors are also at play. When you sleep, your blood flow increases. Many studies have shown how this affects the brain, and muscle blood flow is also increased which can help reduce inflammation and help with healing. There are even other chemicals working in your body, such as the sleep hormone melatonin, helping you relax and unwind as you slumber.

Other benefits, such as a reduction in blood pressure, steadier blood sugar and better hormonal regulation, make sleeping a critical tool in the path to recovery or management of conditions. Keep that in mind the next time you’re told bed rest is the best option by your doctor.

The different kinds of ailments that can hamper sleep

When it comes to ailments affecting our sleep, there are a lot of potential situations and conditions at play. Covering every possible outcome in one article just wouldn’t be possible, but we wanted to tackle some of the more common problems people face when unwell and trying to rest. Please note, however, that this is all generic advice and is for informational purposes only. We would recommend speaking with your doctor about your specific issues if they’re becoming a problem.

With that said, here’s some of the ailments you may find putting a wall between you and your well-deserved sleep.

Brunette woman in a white bedroom holding her knees, wearing a grey tanktop.

Stomach pains and digestive issues

Stomach pains can strike at any time, but sometimes the worst ones happen when you’re trying to sleep. There is a myriad of reasons why they can happen, from IBS to acid reflux, overeating before bed or even period cramps and gas. These can vary greatly in severity, and each has its own method to help manage or alleviate the pain. Generally speaking, one-off occasions aren’t something to worry too much about, but if these pains continue on the regular it is best to seek medical advice. There are some positions to lay in to relieve stomach pain, such as lying on your left side. This helps because it lets gravity aid in your digestion, though some people prefer to sleep on their back with a pillow between their legs to help counter stomach pain when lying down.

Muscle strains and aches

Our bodies are covered in muscles, and if we strain even one of them we can find sleeping to be difficult. You may experience pain in the ankle at night or have a backache. But intercostal muscle strain can also be quite a common problem people face head-on at bedtime. Muscle strains fall into four categories:

  • Contusions – where compressive force causes injury to the muscles
  • Strains – where the fibres in the muscle can’t stand being over-stretched
  • Degenerative diseases – where a condition degrades the muscle in the body
  • Lacerations – where the muscle is cut by something external

Due to the nature of these pains, it is important to seek medical help and assistance when treating or handling any of these problems. General pain medication, as recommended by your doctor, can be taken to help alleviate the worst of this, but finding a posture to sleep easily can be tough. Sleeping on your back is usually recommended for these kinds of ailments to help evenly distribute your weight.

Broken Bones

Not everyone has broken a bone, but near everyone who has knows how tricky it is to count sheep and sleep with this condition. Healing bones is a long and uncomfortable process, and knowing how to sleep with a broken rib or limb helps to improve how you heal and feel in equal measure.

When it comes to broken limbs, getting them elevated above you when you sleeping tends to help the most. Not only does it help set your sleep position, but it helps to prevent blood pooling in the limb and causing further swelling. With broken ribs, sleeping on your back, side or even upright often helps you find relief by minimising the contraction of your chest when breathing. You may also be given pain medication to take before bed, which can help in finding your much-needed rest.

brunette lady sleeping on cooling pad on blue bed

Sleep disorders

Last, but certainly not least, is chronic sleep disorders. We covered some of the most common sleep disorders in the past, including parasomnia, sleep apnea and insomnia. We may ask ourselves, “what is insomnia?”, or similar questions about these other disorders, so educating yourself first and seeking medical advice to help manage them is important.

Some of the most common sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia – the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep
  • Sleep Apnoea – losing the ability to breathe freely while sleeping
  • Restless Leg Syndrome – where an uncomfortable feeling causes a need to move the legs constantly, obstructing sleep and other tasks
  • Bruxism – grinding teeth in sleep
  • Narcolepsy – an unstable switch between awake and asleep

Unlike most of the issues we’ve discussed, sleep disorders tend to be chronic conditions that require individual care and treatment to manage. Common treatments include reviewing your sleep hygiene, therapy, taking medication, and creating firm sleep routines. They can also be tied to hormonal issues, such as how hormonal profiles can help manage OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea), for example.

What can we do about these ailments stopping us from sleeping?

We’d love to give one clear answer, but the reality is that the solution is different for everyone when it comes to helping us reclaim our sleep. Speaking to your doctor is always a solid first step, especially as they’ll have records on file of the issue you’re facing. They should be able to steer you to the right course of action to make some positive changes to your sleep.

Generally speaking, aiming to get as much sleep as you can is the key, ideally in the region of 6-8 hours. This can be difficult with insomnia, however, so whether this means setting yourself a specific bedtime, creating a sleep routine that prepares you for rest or even just lying down regardless of whether you sleep, the key thing is to try your best. Even getting some quiet wakefulness (something that some studies use to refer to lying in bed with our eyes closed) can be the next best thing to help us heal steadily.

The key takeaway from all this is to understand what is causing your issues. That way, you can handle them much better than if the problem is nebulous and unknown. Speak with your doctor, get referred to experts, but also do your own research around the subject to arm yourself for a good night’s rest.

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