It has been observed that one in three adults in the United States do not get adequate sleep at night. This constitutes for at least 35% of the adult population in the country. It has been proved scientifically that problems with sleep or sleep deprivation negatively impacts almost every sphere of body health. It not affects a person professionally but also the person can end up with severe medical conditions caused due to sleep deprivation.[1,2,3]
Why Sleep Is The Best Pain Killer?
As of late, scientists have found out a link between sleep and pain sensitivity. In fact, there is nothing new about it. It is well-known that an athlete with a muscle injury with muscle pain will have worsening of symptoms if he or she does not sleep well at night. In fact it is a vicious cycle. The more the pain is, the harder for a person to fall asleep. There are many professional sportsmen who prefer to sleep to manage the pain and they have been doing so for many years. This is something that even a common man can follow.[1,2,3]
A latest study mentions that a good eight hours of sleep at night can help in managing the pain symptoms better. Sleep deprivation can even have a significant impact on the brain health of a person. It can cause impairment in thinking, focusing, and concentrating making it tough to carry out daily routine tasks.[1,2,3]
With regard to chronic pain, in the United States it is estimated that approximately 50 million adults have some type of chronic pain. The Center for Diseases Control reports that around 130 people in the United States succumb to opioid overdose on a daily basis.[1,2,3] The article below highlights how sleep can decrease pain and prove to be the best pain killer.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Pain Sensitivity?
To identify a relationship between sleep deprivation and pain sensitivity a study was conducted in group of 24 young healthy individuals. Pain was induced in these participants applying heat to their legs. During this process the brain activity of these participants were closely monitored and the pain thresholds of each of them was recorded. At the start of the study none of the participants complained of any pain or discomfort or any sleep related problems.
Once the pain threshold of every participant was recorded, the experiment of applying heat to the legs was done once again but this time after a night of no sleep. The results of the study revealed that all the participants started feeling pain at lower temperatures compared to the initial results. This showed that the pain sensitivity had increased after a night of sleep deprivation.
The researchers stated that the injury was the same but the way the brain processed pain was significantly different without sufficient sleep. They found that the somatosensory cortex in the brain, the part that is associated with pain sensitivity, became hyperactive in participants who were sleep deprived. This proved beyond doubt that sleep deprivation significantly interfered with processing in the brain with regard to pain perception.
Another finding was that the brain’s nucleus accumbens that releases dopamine which is responsible for pain relief also recorded low activity. The researchers came to a conclusion that sleep deprivation amplifies pain sensing regions of the brain and also blocks the functioning of pain relieving centers as well.
It was also noted by the researchers that the insula in the brain which prepares the body’s reaction to pain was also underactive in sleep deprived participants of the study. Insula is a part of the neural system that categorizes the pain signals so that the body’s natural analgesia can act accordingly.
The findings of the study mentioned above were again tested but this time on separate set of individuals. This time, around 22 adults were chosen. All these participants reported that any change in sleep pattern caused a significant impact on their pain perception.
People who had good and restful eight hour sleep reported significant pain relief than people who had interrupted sleep patterns. This clearly showed that even slightest change in sleep patterns affected pain perception significantly. It is unfortunate that very few people know about the importance of sleep in our lives. Very little do people know that sleep is a natural analgesic and is a big contributor in pain relief.