Between 15-20% of women will experience chronic pelvic pain, which is pain that has lasted for at least 3 months. Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and we still have a lot to learn about the condition. But we do know there is one strategy that may help decrease your pain: sleeping more.
Getting more and better sleep may help women with chronic pelvic pain, because sleep can help decrease pain sensitivity. Proper sleep is also a critical component of any healthy lifestyle. Women who are experiencing CPP may have more trouble sleeping, making sleep hygiene critical.
Chronic Pelvic Pain & Sleep
While we don’t fully understand all types of CPP, we do know that having the condition can impact a woman’s quality of sleep – and therefore her quality of life, too.
For example, one study found that 72% of patients with chronic pelvic pain also had sleep disorders. 1
And a more recent study similarly found that 80% of women with chronic pelvic pain had poor sleep quality – so much so that the authors recommended sleep education in psychiatry and neurology clinics to increase awareness of sleeping problems. 2 Moreover, we also know from longitudinal studies that “sleep impairments are a stronger, more reliable predictor of pain than pain is of sleep impairments.” 3
Ultimately, getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is absolutely essential to good health, and everyone needs sleep to allow the body the opportunity to relax and heal itself – critically important for someone suffering from chronic pain.
And sleep can be a much needed balm for those suffering from chronic pain. That’s because studies have shown that sleep affects pain tolerance, meaning that if you don’t sleep well, you may be in more pain that you would otherwise. The authors of one such study highlighted that “the need to improve sleep among patients with chronic pain, and vice versa, should be an important agenda for future research.” 4
Clearly, women who are suffering from chronic pelvic pain should consider how well they’re sleeping when trying to make improvements in their condition. And given that their sleep is more likely to be disrupted, proper sleep hygiene will be critically important for these women.
More Ways To Treat Chronic Pelvic Pain
We’re on a mission to empower women through education, because we believe that women shouldn’t have to suffer in silence regarding their pelvic and reproductive health.
There’s no doubt that sleep and a healthy lifestyle that includes relaxation and stress management can help minimize chronic pelvic pain.
But like we explained in our myths about pelvic pain article, this is a serious issue that likely won’t go away on it’s own, so it’s important to take it seriously. Speak to your health care provider, and consider seeking out a doctor who specializes in pelvic flood disorders, too (find one in your area using our Physician Finder).
Many pelvic floor disorders, like pelvic organ prolapse, are caused by loose pelvic floor muscles – and if that’s the case, your doctor may recommend Kegel exercises.
Many women also get relief from CPP by working with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Just like with ‘regular’ physical therapy, pelvic floor physical therapy works to recondition the pelvic floor muscles by strengthening and stretching them to alleviate pain and dysfunction. A pelvic floor physical therapist will begin by learning your medical history, along with educating you about how the muscles, organs and tissues of your pelvic floor work together. After understanding your needs, they will begin the process of working with you to help relieve any pain or dysfunction.
The great news is that chronic pelvic pain can often be treated. So take control of your health, speak to your doctor, and make sure you’re getting enough zzz’s each night.