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Loss of Sleep Can Lessen Pain Tolerance


Weight gain, depression, and energy drain are very common effects of sleep deprivation, but scientists are now linking sleep loss with diminished pain tolerance.

Findings from a study conducted at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, monitored the sleep patterns of 18 healthy adults in two separate groups. The first group was left to sleep soundly for nine hours for four nights; while the second group averaged two fewer hours of sleep each night, for four nights.

Then researchers tested the pain thresholds of each group by asking subjects to hold a finger to a source of radiant heat. They found that those with more hours of sleep were able to tolerate the heat source for about 25-percent longer.

Additional studies have drawn similar conclusions—that sleep loss increases inflammation throughout the body, heightening the body’s pain signals and sensitivity to painful stimuli.

And because loss of sleep is a common concern of patients with acute and chronic pain, this complex link between sleep and pain may explain why those suffering from chronic pain claim that pain causes sleep loss—when in fact the effects of painkillers are reduced due to chronic sleep loss.

Source: New York Times

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