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Do Your Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms Worsen At Night?

December 13, 2018

Though it is treatable, diabetes-related nerve damage, or neuropathy, can cause pain and add complications to your life. You may need to monitor your diet and exercise, and it may be difficult to stay on your feet for long periods of time. One less obvious impact is that many people find that their neuropathy is worse when lying down. Some even find that they have peripheral neuropathy symptoms in their feet only at night.

If this describes you, you’re not alone. A recent study confirmed that people on medication for neuropathy reported their pain was the worst around 11 p.m.

Reasons Why Nerve Pain is Worse at Night

So why is neuropathy worse at night? Though research hasn’t confirmed the exact reasons, there are a few scientific guesses.

Many times, people who have peripheral neuropathy have symptoms that include abnormal sensations or sensitivity to touch - even the touch of a lightly-draped sheet. This could make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

When you’re trying to sleep, it’s often necessary to “quiet your mind” to rest and to take a break from the distractions of the day. However, the normal events of the day may be helping keep your mind off your neuropathy pain. When you are lying down in the dark, you have less distractions, and it may be more difficult to not focus on the pain you’re feeling.

Some pain-relieving medications, like codeine, have also been shown to disturb sleep. It may be best to speak with your doctor about the medications you are currently taking to see if one could be making your sleep symptoms worse.

Finally, a lack of sleep itself could contribute to your problems with neuropathy keeping you up at night. When we don’t have enough sleep - at least 7-9 hours a night - this can lower our tolerance for pain. This can cause you to enter a cycle of not being able to sleep, which causes further sleep disturbances.

How to Help Peripheral Neuropathy At Night

Neuropathy symptoms at night can be difficult, but there are ways to help treat your pain when lying down our trying to sleep. One of the first steps is keeping track of your sleep schedule and routine to see if there are any factors that may contribute to your symptoms. Make sure you are going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

Creating a comfortable environment is also key to a good night’s sleep and preventing nighttime pain. Make sure your bedroom, bed, and pillows are comfortable and limit your exposure to screens (TV, iPad, phone, etc.)  If you are very sensitive to touch at night, elevate your bed sheets so they’re not touching your legs or feet.

Some people living with diabetic neuropathy find that creating a habit of cleaning their feet and giving themselves a quick massage helps increase circulation. You can find some of our favorite treatments and creams for diabetic foot pain here.

If none of these treatment options is working for you, it may be time to talk to your doctor about other ways to help relieve your nerve pain at night. Speak with them to see if there are any medications that you can add or take away to help you sleep. If anxiety or depression are contributing to your symptoms, they may recommend treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or trying meditation and relaxation exercises before sleeping.

Interested in learning more about ways to alleviate diabetic foot pain? Read our post on five things you can do to manage pain symptoms.

Disclaimer: Diabetic neuropathy symptoms may vary from individual to individual. Please consult with your doctor before pursuing any of the actions listed above.

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