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Poor sleep lowers pain tolerance

It’s clear that sleep issues and chronic pain are major public health concerns. The relationship between sleep issues and pain are complex to say the least.

Do sleep issues bring on pain sensitivity?

Does pain lend itself to more sleep issues?

There’s a link between sleep issues bringing about increased sensitivity than vice versa. 

There also seems to be a relationship between poor sleep and psychological distress such as depression and anxiety.

In a study sampling 10,412 healthy Norwegian folk, their sleep was controlled for by duration, onset (how quickly do you fall asleep?), efficiency (percentage of how well you sleep) and tested for pain sensitivity by dunking their hands in a cold water tank.

Result:

All parameters were related to increased pain sensitivity. What’s really interesting is that sleep loss did not necessarily relate to sensitivity levels.

Wait a minute.

You might think insomniacs struggle with sleep duration but it’s clinically defined as a person struggling with falling sleep and maintaining sleep despite adequate opportunities and circumstances for sleep. Perhaps one can extrapolate that a person can adapt to sleep loss and still reasonably function without their pain threshold being affected.

Do you deal with or know anyone who suffers with chronic sleep issues? 

Nonpharmacological means to help sleep issues seem to be the trend today. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been thoroughly investigated and is highly regarded as the treatment of choice.


Sources:

  1. Sivertsen, B. et al., Sleep and pain sensitivity in adults, Pain 156 (2015) 1433–1439.
  2. Photo credit – pxhere.com

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