Having a stiff, sore back triples the risk of insomnia — and sleep deprivation hinders healing. Argh! It’s a vicious circle. The good news: Experts say you can break this cycle with a simple bedtime routine that cuts the risk of sleep problems and back pain by 68 percent or more!
Here are four easy things you can do to ease the aches and pains that keep you up at night.
Take this combo an hour before bed.
To make both sleep-inducing and pain-taming hormones, your brain uses an amino acid called 5-HTP. And a study in Alternative Medicine Review suggests that taking 100 mg. to 200 mg. of 5-HTP nightly deepens sleep by 25 percent and cuts chronic pain by as much as 55 percent. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.
Arch your back at bedtime.
Take two minutes each night to gently stretch your stiff back. Arch, bend or gently twist from side to side, and you’ll get 42 more minutes of deep, healing sleep each night, plus cut your back pain by as much as 45 percent, say University of Pennsylvania researchers. Pain researcher Christine Wiebking, Ph.D., explains that stretching boosts the flow of healing, nutrient-rich blood to injured tissues, plus it tamps down the production of stress hormones that sabotage sleep.
Massage your feet when you lie down.
Treat yourself to a four-minute foot massage after cozying up in bed, and you’ll cut your risk of restless sleep in half, plus your back will feel 55 percent more limber and comfortable the next day. That’s the word from British researchers, who say stimulating the pressure-sensitive nerves in your feet prompts the release of a relaxing, ache-ending hormone called oxytocin.
Release tension before you fall asleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) involves slowly tensing and relaxing muscles up and down your body. To try it: Make tight fists, hold for five seconds, then let your hands open, focusing on how good your relaxed muscles feel. Research suggests doing this for 10 minutes nightly can cut back pain and sleep troubles by 68 percent. Study author Sidney Sen, M.D., explains that PMR stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, a branch of nerves that induces sleep, relaxes muscle spasms and calms pain nerves.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.