Does Insomnia Make You More Sensitive to Pain?

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Science may be finally catching up to what insomniacs have been saying for years – that they are more sensitive to physical things going on with their bodies than other individuals. A recent ongoing study involving more than 10,400 adults showed that individuals who have insomnia, or other sleep issues, have greater pain sensitivity. The more severe the insomnia, the less tolerant the subjects were to pain.

The Norwegian study involved a standard pain sensitivity test. The participants were asked to submerge their hand in extremely cold water for 106 seconds. Those with insomnia removed their hand from the water earlier than those who did not have insomnia.

Although a strong relationship has now been made between pain and sleep, it is still unclear as to why such a relationship exists, or what causes the sensitivity.

With that being said, these findings suggest that pain management is crucial for ill and/or injured individuals so adequate sleep can be obtained. Likewise, those who are having trouble sleeping may notice their pain tolerance begins to lessen. General aches and pains that were once tolerable may become bothersome and can make sleep even harder to come by.

If you are an insomniac, the results of this study may not be news to you. You may consider it long overdue and feel that you are finally getting validation for what you have been dealing with for some time. However, if you are not an insomniac but you know of someone, or are living with someone who has insomnia, this news can be enlightening.

The next time you hear someone say “I couldn’t sleep last night because my back was killing me,” or “My bad knee kept me up all night” – you’ll now know that it probably isn’t an exaggeration. You do not have a complainer or hypochondriac on your hands. You have someone in your life that is probably very tired and who is dealing with pain in one form or another. Encourage them to go to their health care provider for some relief.

Many people, even those in the medical community, believed insomnia to be primarily a psychological issue. As more studies are being conducted and more discoveries are being made, this myth has been disproved. This Norwegian study suggests that insomnia is linked to not only psychological issues, but physiological ones, too.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His course will help you identify the issues that are harming your sleep and teach you how to fix them. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.


Sivertsen, B. et al. "Sleep and Pain Sensitivity in Adults." PAIN. Web. Accessed June 19, 2015.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.