The pain, tingling, and burning sensations from diabetic peripheral neuropathy can be debilitating any time of day. But, for some people, these uncomfortable sensations get particularly worse at night, especially when they’re trying to sleep.
If you’re in this category, you might have been told you’re imagining it. But, recent research from the Comprehensive Pain Center at Oregon Health & Sciences University indicates more acute pain at night isn’t in your head. In a study of nearly 650 participants, investigators found patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy — regardless of age, gender, or other health conditions — reported feeling the most significant pain between 11pm and 8am.
Next time you feel your peripheral neuropathy pain intensifying at night, consider these possible causes. In some cases, you can try to get the discomfort under control.
- Fewer distractions: At night, there’s less to take your mind off your pain — no chores, no errands, and no talking as you try to drift off to sleep. That’s when your mind and body become more aware of your surroundings. You notice your pain more, making sleep elusive.
To combat that heightened awareness, try to focus on something you enjoy to take your mind off what you’re feeling.
- Cooler temperatures: With peripheral neuropathy, according to Loma Linda University Health, your feet will be far more sensitive to cooler air. As temperatures drop at night, your peripheral nerves can begin to tingle more, and you’ll feel more burning or sharp pains. Your heart rate also slows when you’re colder, slowing your blood and increasing painful sensations.
If you can handle the touch on your feet, wrap up in blankets to warm up.
- Stress/Fatigue: Sometimes, physical stress and exertion can increase your nerve pain as your body begins to relax at the end of the day. Vigorous exercise and the soreness that accompanies it can contribute to more night-time nerve pain.
Be sure you alternate your exercise routines so you’re not over-taxing your body, and pay attention to when you need to take a break from exercise and let your body rest.
- Medication: Even though your medication might work well during the day, keeping you mostly free from pain, it eventually wears off. This typically happens at night, according to the Innovations Stem Cell Center. When you’ve been comfortable all day, you’ll notice the pain much more when it starts to creep back in.
Try these strategies to stay comfortable at night if your have peripheral neuropathy pain:
- Control your blood sugar. Work to keep your levels between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after meals.
- Soak your feet in a warm bath to relax your nerves at night. Be sure to check the water temperature to avoid burning your feet.
- Exercise regularly. It increases blood flow and oxygen to your feet, reducing pain. Listen to your body, though, and take breaks when needed.
Contact Amputation Prevention Centers of America if you have questions.