What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to the nerves in the body’s extremities such as the arms, hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy is frequently associated with symptoms such as pamamanhid (numbness), tusok-tusok (tingling), and pangangalay (muscle weakness), which can disturb your sleep. It’s estimated that more than half of people with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy.
What is the relationship between peripheral neuropathy and sleep disturbances?
People with nerve pain and sleep issues often ask themselves why neuropathy happens at night.
Several factors can make neuropathy symptoms affect you more when you’re trying to sleep: Your body position is different in bed than during the day, which means you might feel nerve pain differently. Your body temperature also fluctuates at night and your nerve endings might react to the temperature change with a tingling or burning sensation that you feel. Also if you already don’t have good sleeping habits, this can leave your body open to increased pain perception. It’s also possible that your pain medication is wearing off before you go to sleep. Your doctor can help you plan your medication dosing to maximize its benefits.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to manage nerve discomfort at night and get a decent night’s rest.
Tips for getting a better night’s rest
Wondering what helps peripheral neuropathy at night? To get a proper night’s rest, you should:
Adopt these healthy habits:
Combined with proper diet and exercise, take a B complex vitamin containing neurotropic B vitamins, B1, B6 and B12, to help relieve neuropathy symptoms and restore healthy nerve function. ⁴
Establish a regular bedtime/wake-up schedule – your circadian rhythm will thank you for this!
Choose some bedtime rituals – for example, you could read in bed for 20 minutes to relax your mind or listen to classical music.
Limit or eliminate caffeine – don’t drink coffee, caffeinated tea, or energy drinks after noon.
Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before going to bed – alcohol disrupts our sleep cycle, while heavy meals right before going to bed can lead to indigestion. Leave at least 2-3 hours’ digestion time before going to bed. If you do need to eat during this time, stick to light snacks such as plain biscuits, toast or fruit.
Drink a calming herbal tea – certain types of tea may have calming effect which may help with sleep.
Try teas containing camomile, lavender, valerian root, lemon balm or passionflower. You can even buy specific sleep teas!
Get away from any screens – screens nowadays emit a lot of blue light which can reduce your melatonin levels—the hormone that makes you sleepy—so turning off your TV and smartphone a couple of hours before bedtime is a good idea to get your body to wind down.
Establish a relaxing and comfortable sleeping environment:
Sleep in a dark room with as little light as possible.
Make your bed in the morning to be able to lay down in a clean, cosy bed at night.
Keep your bedroom at a temperature of around 18-20 degrees Celsius.
Try relaxation techniques:
Practise deep breathing techniques.
Relax your muscles by first tensing them while breathing in, then breathing out and releasing the tension.
Use the power of your mind: imagine lying down, gently falling asleep, staying asleep during the night, and feeling rested in the morning.
Try 10 minutes of meditation before bed.
Soak your feet and hands in a warm bath to relax your nerves at night. Make sure the water isn’t too hot though.
Still feeling neuropathy symptoms at night? See a doctor.
If you’ve tried all these methods and you are still being woken up by your peripheral neuropathy symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Your physician can recommend specific measures to help you manage neuropathy at night.
Further treatment options if sleep disturbance persists
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Of course, it’s important to follow your peripheral neuropathy treatment plan, and make sure you keep your body’s vitamin B levels at a healthy level. But if your sleep disturbance persists, your doctor might recommend one of the following treatment options:
Non-pharmacological treatments such as spinal cord stimulation, magnetic brain stimulation, and acupuncture.
Pharmacological treatments can include pills, patches, and topical substances to reduce peripheral neuropathy discomfort.
Take steps to improve your diet and lifestyle, especially if you have diabetes—this will help with your health in general and could reduce peripheral neuropathy sleep problems
Do regular exercises to help with neuropathy symptoms
Do your neuropathy symptoms interfere with your sleep? You can take control of your sleep and reduce the impact of peripheral neuropathy that gets worse at night. Follow your doctor’s advice, eat a balanced diet including sources of vitamin B1, B6 and B12, take an additional vitamin B supplement if necessary, and create a good sleeping environment and routine. You’ll be nodding off before you know it.