Pain can make it difficult to sleep, but does a lack of sleep also affect pain levels? A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests it does. According to researchers, sleep deprivation causes changes in the brain that strengthen and prolong pain associated with illness or injury.
Results of this study may help explain the common cycle of sleep loss and chronic pain and could even shed light on the mechanisms of opioid addiction, as approximately two in three chronic pain patients also report recurring sleep disturbances.
For this study, researchers performed brain scans on 25 healthy adults while applying uncomfortable levels of heat to the study participants’ legs to identify areas of the brain that pick up on pain signals and activate natural pain relief measures. Then, the researchers determined how these areas of the brain are disrupted by inadequate sleep and discovered that sleep deprivation increases pain sensitivity and impedes the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter involved in pain relief.
Next, the researchers surveyed more than 230 adults of all ages online, asking them to report their nightly hours of sleep and daily pain levels over the course of a few days. They discovered that even minor changes in sleep-wake patterns were associated with changes in pain sensitivity.
Sourced from: Journal of Neuroscience