By Elissa Bass - LumenMD.com

You are suddenly awakened in the middle of the night by a sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain in your feet, lower legs, or hands. It jolts you awake, and keeps you up.

Over-the-counter pain medications provide little relief. As this begins to happen on more and more nights, you find yourself feeling exhausted in the morning, and growing foggier as the day progresses. This can put you at risk of falling, or suffering depression.

These painful sensations that disrupt your sleep may be peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves. It often causes weakness, numbness, and pain, typically in the hands and feet. A common underlying cause of the nerve damage is diabetes, but it can also be caused by chemotherapy treatment for cancer, an injury or infection, or exposure to toxins.

If you have not been diagnosed by a doctor, you should call your physician immediately and schedule a full check up. A good night’s sleep is important, and becomes even more critical the older you become. If you have already been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, there are steps you can take to help the situation.

But first, some information on the importance of sleep. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults — seven  to nine hours each night. People who don’t get enough quality sleep each night can be susceptible to depression and other mood disorders, changes in eating, decrease in physical activity and an overall decline in health.

Without a good night’s sleep, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that you may:

  • Be irritable
  • Have memory problems or be forgetful
  • Feel depressed
  • Have more falls or accidents

An ability to fall asleep or stay asleep can be categorized as insomnia. The NIA says that for adults age 60 and older, it is the most common sleep issue reported. According to the National Sleep Foundation, having trouble sleeping can mean you:

  • Take a long time to fall asleep
  • Wake up many times in the night
  • Wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep
  • Wake up tired
  • Feel very sleepy during the day

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society found that people with diabetes-related nerve damage such as peripheral neuropathy may experience worse pain in the evening hours.

Researchers recruited 647 people who reported they'd been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. For seven days, participants kept a diary recording the intensity of their pain every three hours, starting at 8 a.m. They were asked to rate their pain on a 10-point scale, where 10 equals the worst pain imaginable. Results showed that average pain scores were highest at 11 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The average age of the participants was 54, and 58% were female. Nearly all (92%) were taking prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. The study is considered too small to provide definitive results, but it is hoped that its findings will spur more research.

Here are some tips for getting better quality, uninterrupted sleep:

  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule.
  • Develop a bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath or reading.
  • Eliminate caffeine four to six hours before bed. Minimize daytime use.
  • Avoid smoking, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before bed.
  • Turn off your TV, and all your devices a few hours before your bedtime.

To help alleviate your night-time pain, ask your doctor about treating your peripheral neuropathy with Near Infrared therapy (NIR).  NIR, which is cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a painless, drug-free, prescription-free and non-invasive treatment for peripheral neuropathy symptoms.

Research backs the effectiveness of Near Infrared therapy (NIR) to provide pain relief for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. LumenMD uses cutting-edge, clinical-strength and FDA-cleared technology to provide sensation relief for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

For more information on Near Infrared therapy, click here.