Sleep linked to awareness and pain sensitivity

According to a recent study published in the journal Sleep, increased sleep time may lower pain sensitivity and increase awareness in adults.

The research analyzed 18 healthy adults who were not in pain but reported being sleepy. They were assigned to sleep regimens in which they would either follow their normal sleep schedules or extend their time spent in bed to 10 hours a night. After four nights, the participants were analyzed using a multiple sleep latency test and had their pain sensitivity gauged with a radiant heat stimulus, for which they would place their fingers on a heat source for as long as they could tolerate the pain.

The researchers found that those who slept for extended periods of time experienced greater alertness and were less sensitive to pain.

“Our results suggest the importance of adequate sleep in various chronic pain conditions or in preparation for elective surgical procedures,” said lead investigator Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D. “We were surprised by the magnitude of the reduction in pain sensitivity, when compared to the reduction produced by taking codeine.”

Sleep benefits
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notes that increasing sleep time has myriad cognitive benefits and that studies have shown that people have improved memory and an increased ability to learn information when they have a good night’s sleep. Sleep has also been shown to be conducive for creativity and problem solving.

Sleep also yields physical benefits and can bolster cardiovascular wellness. The DHHS notes that heart rate and blood pressure shift in between periods of REM and non-REM sleep. These cardiovascular changes have been shown to be good for heart health.

The body also produces hormones known as cytokines during sleep, which assist the immune system in warding off disease, whereas a slumber deficiency can make the body more vulnerable to infections.

Sleep deficit detriments
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a 2002 survey found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults believed that sleep deprivation was linked to poor work performance, increased risk of injury and a difficulty in avoiding confrontation with others. The source notes that not getting enough sleep can cause irritability and can inhibit decision-making and concentration. The NSF reports that there are approximately 100,000 car crashes and 1,500 vehicular fatalities every year due to sleepy drivers. Research has also shown that a lack of sleep may play a role in the development of diabetes and may impede on peoples’ ability to exercise.

Healthy sleep patterns
In order to get a sufficient amount of sleep, the Mayo Clinic recommends keeping a regular sleep schedule in which people wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. If people are unable to fall asleep within 15 minutes of putting their heads on a pillow, they should do a relaxing activity and try to fall asleep once they feel tired.

Diet may also play a role in sleep quality. People may want to avoid consuming too much before bed because they may have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Also, the Mayo Clinic notes that stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine should be closely monitored because they can stay in the body’s system for long periods of time and cause sleeplessness.

The hormone melatonin may also be conducive to getting a good night’s sleep because it helps control the body’s internal clock, known as its circadian rhythm, which dictates when the body sleeps and wakes. Melatonin production increases in dark environments and people can also get it from a Calmax Sleep supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.