Why Sleepless Nights Can Mean More Painful Days

By | January 29, 2019

TUESDAY, Jan. 29, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If you were up all night and you ache all over the next morning, your lack of sound slumber might be to blame.

New research found that sleep loss delivered a double whammy to the brain that all but guaranteed greater levels of body pain.

“Activity in the somatosensory cortex, previously associated with the location and intensity of pain, was enhanced following sleep loss,” explained study author Adam Krause.

And “in two regions called the striatum and the insula, sleep deprivationdecreased the activity associated with pain [relief],” he added. These regions control the release of dopamine, often called the “feel-good” hormone.

Krause is a Ph.D. candidate with the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

During the study, 25 healthy, young participants got the normal eight hours of sleep one night. A week or so later, the same group underwent a night of no sleep whatsoever.

After each session, all the volunteers underwent “thermal pain sensitivity” tests, followed by MRI scans to monitor brain activity while their legs were exposed to uncomfortable levels of heat.

After a full night of sleep, most participants reported feeling heat discomfort at about 111 degrees Fahrenheit.

But after a night of no sleep, that pain threshold dropped to 107 degrees F.

Brain scans pinpointed the neurological basis for the uptick in pain sensitivity following sleep loss.

The research team then surveyed 60 adults (average age 38) over a 48-hour survey period. All had reported experiencing pain during the survey period, and all were asked to: keep sleep diaries; report mood and anxiety levels; rank pain intensity, when experienced.

“We found that reductions from one night to the next in the quality of the sleep, rather than just the quantity — total hours asleep — predicted worse pain the following day,” Krause noted.

“The optimistic takeaway here is that better sleep can help manage and lower pain. [It’s] a natural analgesic that we can all pick up in repeat prescription each night, if we choose,” he said.

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