It's an extra twist of cruelty - where sleep might help a shingles victim recover better, the pain from shingles is much worse at night. I think the resulting loss of sleep exacerbates things, making it even harder to recover due to lack of sleep and the associated stress that causes.
Because hot baths reduce my shingles pain, many nights I've resorted to sleeping in the bathtub. It's a dangerous move and I realize that, but I'm so desperate for sleep that I chance it. When the water starts cooling, the pain comes back and it wakes me up. Sometimes I'm so exhausted, I just let out some of the water and refill with hot so I can grab another extra bit of sleep.
I think I need to find an adult swim collar to be on the safe side.
If my work schedule permits, I'll even go to bed as early as 7:00 at night - just to get in 4 or so hours of decent sleep before the pain wakes me up. Then I'll try to catch another hour in a hot bath. By 2 or 3 a.m. I'll put on a Lidoderm (Lidocaine patch).
Somewhat counter-intuitively, drinking hot coffee also helps me. Perhaps it's because I personally find sipping hot coffee to be relaxing. Or maybe the coffee stimulates the nerves similar to the way that Ritalin overstimulates and helps folks with ADD focus better. The over stimulation theory has some legs - I've read of some shingles sufferers deliberately causing more pain to the affected area because they claim it helps. I've not wanted to put that to the test, so coffee is it for me.
I should point out that I'm a long-time coffee drinker and caffeine doesn't seem to affect me. I can drink a pot of coffee and fall asleep directly after. If you're sensitive to caffeine, I imagine it could make the shingles pain even worse. I think it probably works for me just because I actually find coffee relaxing, not stimulating.
I've also been trying to minimize stress as much as possible, trying to stick with lighthearted or funny movies, listening to classical music, meditating, and doing gentle stretching exercises often. Combined it all helps but I'm getting sick and tired of spending 24/7 either in pain or working to prevent the onset of pain.
I hate shingles.