Insomnia worsens chronic pain
New research in Norway suggests a strong link between insomnia and a person's reaction to pain. The study, published in the journal Pain, found that people with sleep problems were more sensitive to pain than those who didn't have trouble sleeping, and also that people who suffered from both chronic pain and insomnia had a particularly high sensitivity to pain.
Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health measured pain sensitivity in more than 10,000 adults who were participants in the Tromsø Study, which is an ongoing public health study in Norway that began in 1974. During the study, the scientists first asked the participants about their experience with insomnia, how long it took them to fall asleep and other sleep issues. Then the participants completed a cold-pressor test, in which people are asked to place their hands in cold water for a set period of time. This is a standard way to mimic chronic pain.
The results showed that 42 percent of patients who had insomnia took their hands out of the water before the 106 seconds were up, whereas only 31 percent of all of the participants did so. The researchers also noticed that increased sensitivity to pain was greater in those with more severe or more frequent insomnia. Additionally, the patients with both severe insomnia and chronic pain were more than twice as likely to take their hands out of the water early as people who had neither condition.
The researchers say the study should help increase awareness among doctors of the need to consider treating insomnia and chronic pain simultaneously.