Why More Sleep Could Mean Less Pain
It’s sometimes the things you’re not used to paying attention to that end up being contributing factors to your discomfort. Case in point — sleep. While most people associate catching extra Zs with being better rested, making an effort to get more productive sleep may help manage your pain. A comprehensive study involving more than 10,000 individuals with chronic pain showed a link between insomnia and increased pain sensitivity. There’s additional research suggesting even a few hours of extra sleep may reduce pain sensitivity.
Tissues Need Time to Naturally Heal
Normal daily movements can do minor damage to tissues around joints. What sleep does is allow your body to naturally heal itself. If you’re not sticking to a regular sleep schedule or not getting enough deeper stage sleep you’re probably not giving your body enough time to heal itself. Specifically, it’s during the stages of sleep just prior to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when the muscle and tissue healing process normally takes place. If you’re not getting to these stages, the result could be increased inflammation and related pain when you’re awake.
More Sleep May Increase Your Tolerance To Pain
A study involving healthy adults 21 to 35 years of age without pain divided the subjects into two groups. One group was instructed to sleep for, at least, ten hours each year. The other group stuck to their normal sleep schedule. Researchers assessed pain tolerance by measuring how long participants could hold their finger up to a heat source.
After just four days, the group that was getting more sleep was able to tolerate discomfort from the heat source 25 percent better. This type of relief is equivalent to a 60mg dose of codeine taken twice daily, suggesting that sufficient sleep may minimize dependence on pain medications for some patients. It’s not known why these results were seen, but one possibility is that more sleep reduces inflammatory markers.
Sufficient Sleep Makes It Easier to Control Weight
Not getting enough sleep can throw off the balance of hormones that stimulate and suppress appetite (ghrelin and leptin). Being sleep-deprived also tends to lead to overeating and poor diet choices. If you’re not making smart choices with what you eat, you could be contributing to your pain by:
- Placing added stress on joints from extra weight
- Not getting enough beneficial nutrients
- Eating foods that contribute to inflammation
Getting more sleep if you already have existing chronic pain isn’t always easy. If you are having trouble getting uninterrupted sleep, talk to your doctor about possibly adjusting your medications. Another option is to explore different pain management options you might not have considered yet such as mindful meditation, deep breathing, electrotherapy, hot and cold therapy, and epidural injections that may help you get your pain under control enough to enjoy more restful nights. The National Sleep Foundation recommends healthy adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.