How Sleep Loss May Lead To Heightened Pain Sensitivity How Sleep Loss May Lead To Heightened Pain Sensitivity

How Sleep Loss May Lead To Heightened Pain Sensitivity


  • Insomnia symptoms are experienced by approximately 66% of adults at some point in their lives.

  • It's common for people who don't get sufficient sleep to suffer from physical discomfort, such as headaches, migraines, lower back pain, and chronic pain.

  • Insufficient sleep can lead to decreased levels of a particular neurotransmitter, which can cause the body to become more sensitive to pain, according to researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital.

It is estimated that a large portion of adults around the world suffer from sleeplessness, with approximately 50 to 70 million people in the United States alone. These individuals have either sleep apnea or other chronic sleep-related issues.

Studies have shown a correlation between sleeplessness and a variety of severe conditions, including heart disease, road accidents, and diabetes, all of which are among the top 15 causes of death in the United States.

In addition, people who don't get adequate rest often suffer from headaches and migraines, muscle tension, soreness in the lower back, and persistent pain that doesn't go away.

How Sleep Loss Promotes Pain

Although both everyday experience and scientific studies suggest that sleep deprivation and pain are closely related, how lack of sleep increases pain is not well understood.

In this study, researchers employed a mouse model to investigate the connection between insufficient sleep and increased sensitivity to pain.

Scientists discovered that when people do not get sufficient sleep, the levels of NADA in the TRN region of the brain are decreased, which causes people to become more sensitive to pain, a condition known medically as hyperalgesia.

TRN plays a role in regulating the exchange of information between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex, which are both essential to the sensation of pain.

Insufficient sleep leads to decreased neurotransmitters in the brainstem, which can cause the brainstem to malfunction. This, in turn, increases pain sensitivity due to its connections with the thalamus.

Chronic Pain: Cause Or Consequence Of Sleep Issues?


Pain that persists for an extended period, usually over three to six months, is classified as chronic pain.

This type of pain is often more challenging to manage than short-term pain and can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life.

Common types of chronic pain include:

  • Diabetic Neuropathy

  • Pain in scar tissue

  • Headaches and/or Migraine

  • Cancer-associated pain

  • Overall muscle pain, such as fibromyalgia

  • Neck pain

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Back pain

  • Arthritis

Insufficient sleep has been shown to cause and exacerbate chronic pain in past studies.

Not getting enough sleep can aggravate the chronic pain, and the anxiety, depression, and preoccupation with the pain can cause the patient to become chronically insomnia. This creates a continuous cycle of pain, lack of sleep, more pain, and so on.

Treating Pain Induced By Sleep Loss

Researchers think that they will be able to use these discoveries in the future to help prevent or reduce the chronic pain often associated with sleep deprivation.

The study provides a structure to investigate the interconnectedness of chronic pain and inadequate sleep. Furthermore, detecting N-arachidonoyl dopamineTrusted Source (NADA) provides possibilities for testing the effectiveness of this molecule or similar ones in relieving pain caused by sleep deprivation.

These results emphasize that chronic pain is a complex issue and should be addressed through an integrated approach comprised of multiple disciplines.

In the scientific approach, the researchers aim to break down how neurons in the TRN work together to shape the pain response caused by sleep deprivation. For the translational investigations, they will assess whether NADA or any other compounds can alleviate pain caused by a lack of sleep.

Better pain treatments that aren’t narcotics

A recent study has shed light on the importance of finding non-addictive alternatives to pain management rather than relying solely on habit-forming medications like narcotics.

The study examined the impact of sleep deprivation on pain and focused on a naturally occurring substance in the body called NADA (Naturally Occurring Anti-Inflammatory Substance).

The findings revealed that sleep deprivation led to reduced levels of NADA, which in turn appeared to increase the perception of pain. This underscores the vital role sleep plays in aiding the body's natural healing and regenerative processes.

Moreover, the study hinted at broader implications, as NADA is implicated in various chronic diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Research in populations with these conditions could potentially yield improved treatment options.

Researchers hope that pharmaceutical companies will consider this research and explore the development of therapies to address the deficiency of NADA in the central nervous system.

Such treatments could modulate the central nervous system, particularly during nighttime, and potentially alleviate hyperalgesia in chronic pain patients. Expanding this research to human trials and developing corresponding pharmaceutical solutions holds promise for enhancing sleep quality and managing pain effectively without exacerbation.

Tips For Better Sleep

Here are some recommended tips for improving sleep hygiene and getting a better night's sleep:

  • Establish and stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

  • Reserve the bed for sleep and intimate activities only.

  • Maintain a comfortable bedroom environment by keeping it cool, quiet, and dimly lit. Invest in supportive bedding like pillows, sheets, and blankets.

  • Avoid engaging in exciting or violent content before bedtime.

  • Consider taking a relaxing, warm shower before going to sleep.

  • Enjoy a calming beverage like chamomile tea or warm milk.

  • Steer clear of stressful events, discussions, or argumentative phone calls before bedtime.

  • If you have prescribed nighttime medications, take them as directed.

  • Limit the consumption of caffeinated products, especially in the afternoon.

  • Engage in regular exercise.

  • Follow a healthy diet.

  • Practice meditation and relaxation techniques.

Consult with your healthcare provider if you have medical conditions that impact your sleep, such as pain, anxiety, swelling, shortness of breath, or heart-related issues.

Mobi Doctor offers convenient access to healthcare professionals who can provide expert advice and consultations. Whether you have health concerns or need medical guidance, Mobi Doctor is here to assist you with experienced healthcare professionals ready to help.


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