My Favorite Tools for Sleeping Through Chronic Pain

Becky Curtis, Override Director of Coaching

Getting adequate sleep can be one of the greatest challenges for people with chronic pain. Sleeping well is now one of my best tools for managing my pain. Here are 5 of my favorite tools for making sure I rest well at night: 

Deep Breathing

Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale through your mouth. Focusing on your breath can help relax your body and reduce tension. This one takes some practice, but once you have it mastered, you have a free pain tool you can take anywhere, including to bed. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves tensing and then releasing each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head. This can help you become more aware of muscle tension and relieve it. Many people do it before going to bed. I personally find it more helpful to do an hour or so before bed, starting the relaxation process in my body as I prepare for restful sleep. 

Guided Imagery: 

Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful, calming place. Visualize yourself there, paying attention to the sensory details. Really try to keep your mind focused on what you are visualizing. This can distract your mind from pain and induce relaxation. I like to do gentle diaphragmatic breathing as I go to a peaceful place in my mind. For me, this may be the Montana countryside where I spent so many years. Studies show that guided imagery is a great way to reduce pain, depression, and stress – which in turn can induce sleep. 


Mindfulness meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and sensations without judgment. It may reduce stress and improve your ability to cope with pain. I have several memorized quotes I like to meditate on as I drift off to sleep. One of my favorites is Psalm 23, although there are plenty of non-religious quotes you can borrow from, too. Or you can make your own and repeat it to yourself. Override members get access to the Override app, which includes a whole library of meditations that are designed to help you reduce stress. 


Exercise is my best (and only) sleep medication. I like to do mine first thing in the morning and get fresh air while I do it (hiking is my favorite). Getting fresh air and sunlight first thing in the morning also helps stimulate earlier melatonin release and stabilize circadian rhythms.  Medical advice suggests that exercising at least four hours before bedtime is enough time to allow core body temperature to cool and for you to get ready for sleep. 

Warm Baths or Cold Showers: 

Soaking in a warm bath can loosen tense muscles and promote relaxation. Taking a cold shower can provide relief for different reasons. This Sleep Foundation article quotes a study contrasting hot and cold showers before bed. I know most of us would rather have a hot shower, but there are several benefits of taking a cold shower an hour or so before bed, such as, “experience[ing] a drop in core body temperature, fewer nighttime arousals, and a greater proportion of deep sleep within the first three hours of sleep.”  A cold shower can also help reduce muscle stiffness, which may contribute to better sleep by reducing discomfort.

Reducing Blue Light Before Bed:

You probably have heard this one before. The blue light coming from our phones, televisions, and computers mess with our circadian rhythms. The constant scrolling – and often disturbing things we find when we scroll – also succeed in revving us up rather than calming us down before bed. Experts suggest putting away technology at least one hour before bed. I try to do this, too.


Finding just the right routine for sleep has been one of the best investments of my time, because when my brain is rested, I have a much easier time managing my pain. 

And if you want help implementing these tools or finding the right mix for you, Override can help you. You can learn more about how Override can help you by scheduling a free consultation today.

Posted on 
February 16, 2024

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