Science has shown that sleep quality has an impact on nearly every aspect of health and wellness, from  overall performance  to disease prevention  . But there is also evidence that shows a direct link between  sleep and being able to relieve pain . Which is not a surprise.

If you sustain an injury while playing sports, it will likely hurt more if you’ve been staying up half the night. And this finally becomes a vicious cycle; If you are in pain, it will be more difficult for you to sleep. The  athletes  practitioners have been using sleep as a method of healing for several years. A  recent study [¹] on the pain / sleep connection showed that getting your recommended seven to eight hours of sleep can reduce the intensity of your pain, whether it’s due to a broken arm or persistent back pain. 

The Effects of Sleep to Relieve Pain

” Sleep loss not only amplifies pain-sensitive regions in the brain, it also blocks the release of natural analgesia ,” says  Matthew Walker  Ph.D., author of  Why We Sleep , [²] professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, and the lead author of the study. (In other words, if you don’t sleep well, it will be more difficult for you to release your body’s natural pain relievers.) “The bottom line from all of this is that sleep is a natural pain reliever that can help control and reduce pain.”

Walker’s colleague Adam Krause, Ph.D. Cognitive neuroscience candidate at Berkeley, and lead author of the study, selected a group of 25 healthy volunteers aged 20 to 25 and deprived them of a night’s sleep. “In the morning, after they had been awake for 25 or 26 hours, we put them in an MRI scanner and observed how their brains responded to moderate heat pain in one leg, using a device that delivers temperature-controlled pulses.”

Participants felt more pain when they were sleep deprived, compared to when they had a normal night’s sleep (they were tested twice, once after a good night’s sleep, the next after being up all night). ” We found that pain-processing regions of the brain were acting differently after sleep deprivation ,” explains Krause. “ We already knew that these regions would be hyperactive; so with the increased pain, they worked even more than before, “he says. 

The most surprising discovery, Krause continues, “ is that the relationship between sleep and pain is more interesting than we thought. We found that while some regions of the brain were now more active, other regions were less active after lack of sleep . ” This means that some parts of the brain are responsible for registering pain in the body, and others for dealing with that pain, for example, by releasing the body’s natural painkillers. ” Think of these ‘natural pain relievers’ as chemicals like endorphins that the brain releases in response to pain, ” says Krause. 

“They tell you that you need to remove your hand from a hot stove, for example. When you don’t sleep well, it takes less heat to cause pain when you touch the stove, and that pain is even more unpleasant when you haven’t slept, because the region of the brain that normally helps you cope with pain won’t be fully working. “

Adequate sleep reduces pain and doses of painkillers

The study findings confirm that pain is a “whole-body” phenomenon , Krause says, which could have an impact on treatment. “What we discovered explains the self-imposed cycles that contribute to the global epidemics of sleep loss, chronic pain and even opioid addiction. If patients slept well, doctors could reduce the dose of these powerful but harmful drugs that have unpleasant side effects, ”says Krause. 

Instead of always prescribing medications, doctors may “prescribe sleep” in some cases. Pain is a natural part of life and it is impossible to eliminate it. But  research [³] showed that when people experience long-term pain, their brains change in a way that makes it almost impossible for the pain to ease itself. “In certain cases, the pain creates more pain,” says Krause. 

“This is known as sensitization and it can lead to chronic pain, which is difficult to treat with traditional pain relievers.” That’s why improving sleep quality is the new approach to preventing the transition from acute injury to chronic pain.

Tips for reducing pain through rest

These are the best suggestions you can follow to have a better night and be able to reduce or relieve pain :

A dark and cool space, and no screens, caffeine, or alcohol

If you are in pain and have trouble sleeping well, make sure you have a dark bedroom and keep the temperature  relatively low  (15-21 degrees according to the National Sleep Foundation). Stay away from screens at least an hour before bed. And remember, no caffeine or alcohol near bedtime.

A hot shower at night

Taking a hot shower an hour before bed can be effective if you have trouble sleeping.  It sounds simple, but there is actually science behind it. Paradoxically, bathing in hot water cools the inside of your body. A hot shower is very relaxing, but it also signals the body that it is time to go to sleep, so the body begins to release hormones and natural chemicals that promote sleep. 

Mindfulness meditation

A  mindfulness meditation  against pain and sleep can be effective, particularly in the case of chronic pain . You can incorporate mindfulness meditation as part of your bedtime routine, and you will notice significant changes.

Sleeping at the same time every day

Being regular and consistent with bedtime and wake-up time is important. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Sleeping in on the weekend may seem nice, but it really won’t do anything to help you recover from lack of sleep during the week.  

Make sleep a priority

Protect your sleep at all costs, because it will help you recover from injuries faster and make you more resilient. The dream is powerful. Not only can it help release your own body’s natural pain relievers, it can increase your psychological ability to tolerate pain and adversity in all sorts of ways , while also helping you be more productive, whether you’re in pain. or not.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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