Get More Sleep to Feel Less Pain, Says New Study
Chalk another one up for the benefits of sleep. Researchers at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that getting more sleep improves daytime alertness and reduces pain sensitivity in healthy adults.
The study was led by Timothy A. Roehrs, Ph.D., of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the Henry Ford Hospital and supported by the Fund for Henry Ford Health System. Roehrs and his colleagues studied 18 pain-free, but mildly sleepy volunteers.
The participants were randomly assigned to four nights of either their normal amount of sleep, or extending their sleep time to 10 hours in bed per night. Their daytime sleepiness was measured on days one and four using the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), a tool that measures how quickly a person falls asleep. Their pain sensitivity was also measured using finger withdrawal latency pain testing to a radiant heat stimulus.
The first to prove sleep reduces pain
The study, published in the December 1 issue of the journal, Sleep, is the first research of its kind to prove that extended sleep in mildly sleep-deprived adults can significantly reduce their sensitivity to pain.
The results showed that the extended sleep group—those who slept more than normal—slept 1.8 hours more per night than the normal sleep group. It also showed that they experienced less daytime sleepiness. This increase in sleep time during the four nights correlated to increased daytime alertness, as well as less sensitivity to pain.
Regarding the pain test, the extended sleep group showed a greater tolerance for pain/reduced pain sensitivity. The length of time before participants removed their finger from a radiant heat source increased by 25 percent. The researchers noted that this increase in “finger withdrawal latency” is greater than the effect found in a previous study where participants used 60 milligrams of codeine.
In their report, the researchers stated that the results, combined with data from previous research, suggest that increased pain sensitivity in sleepy individuals is the result of their underlying sleepiness.
Timothy Roehrs, PhD, the study’s principal investigator and lead author said, “The results suggest the importance of adequate sleep in various chronic pain conditions or in preparation for elective surgical procedures. We were surprised by the magnitude of the reduction in pain sensitivity, when compared to the reduction produced by taking codeine.”
Read the press release for the study, “Extended sleep reduces pain sensitivity.”
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