A sleep study shows the effectiveness of a longer night’s rest to increase pain tolerance.
A good night’s rest might be a lot more beneficial than just beauty sleep. A study at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI shows that sleeping an extra hour or two a night can lead to heightened pain tolerances.
The study involved 18 overall healthy adult volunteers, all aged between 21 and 34, who did not suffer from chronic pain. They were randomly chosen to either continue their current sleep pattern or extend their sleep by 2 hours, for 4 nights. All of the volunteers reported they normally receive between 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
On days one and four, the subjects pain threshold was tested by having them place their finger on a radiant heat stimulus (basically, they were asked to touch something hot). The results showed that on the fourth day, those individuals who got more sleep had less sensitivity to pain, and were able to keep their finger on the heat 25% longer than the group who continued to get the same 8 hours of sleep.
The findings in this research were compared to pain treatment with 60mg/day of codeine, as both the increased sleep and the pain drug have approximately the same improvement in pain tolerance. By choosing to go to bed a few hours earlier (or wake up a few hours later), this allows the chronic pain sufferer to avoid the side-effects of medication.
More study needed
How they will apply the findings of this study to other areas of pain treatment is still being discussed, but the next step will likely involve looking into patients prepping for near-future surgery, and testing to see if treating sleep issues first can eliminate a part of the need for post-operation pain medication. This could improve patients’ lives by saving them money, and, more importantly, lessening the likelihood of side-effects, overdosing, or becoming addicted to pain drugs.
It is believed that the lack of sleep may increase the levels of inflammatory markers, and that resting well can eliminate some of this inflammation.
One important factor that this study is missing, however, is that many chronic pain sufferers have difficulty resting, laying down, or staying asleep during pain flare-ups. Patients such as these would have difficulty achieving the additional sleep necessary to start buffering the tolerance. More research needs to be done in hopes of finding more definitive answers.
People currently unable to find the rest they require should seek a doctor’s recommendation on how they can experience less painful nights. They may find help in increasing daily exercise, changes to their diet, improvements to their sleep hygiene, or prescription medication.
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