Waking Up in Pain? Your Sleep Schedule Could Be to Blame

The benefits of sleep are well-known. It bolsters your immune system and brain function and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Plus, a solid sleep schedule can lower your risk of serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease. But did you know not getting enough sleep can actually cause you pain? It’s true. A new study found that just one night of inadequate sleep can cause you to be more sensitive to discomfort and external stimuli.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was two-part. The first was conducted in a sleep laboratory, while the second was conducted online, as researchers wanted to understand how the brain processes pain when individuals are sleep-deprived and how self-reported data can/does change. What Matthew Walker and his colleagues learned was that when young, healthy adults were kept up through the night, they experienced an increased amount of activity in the primary somatosensory cortex and reduced amount of activity in the regions of the striatum and insular cortex.

In short, these adults experienced more pain.

And the online study yielded similar results. Participants reported experiencing more pain the day after they reported having a poor night’s sleep.

So what is the ideal amount of sleep? Walker and his colleagues didn’t cite a specific number; however, previous studies — including a recent one from the European Society of Cardiology — have recommended individuals get six to eight hours of sleep, though others believe you should aim to get seven to nine. Meanwhile, it’s also possible to get too much sleep, as sleeping more than eight hours can increase your risk of death and/or heart disease, according to a study published in the European Journal of Health.

As for this new study, researchers hope these results will help doctors find a better way to manage pain, and whether you live with a chronic condition or not, that news is music to any sufferer’s ears.

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