ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sleep Deprivation & Pain Issues

Updated on February 13, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about health and mental health-related topics as well as natural ways to prevent disease and stress.

For many people, sleep deprivation and pain go hand in hand. Headaches due to a lack of sleep are common, as are slight joint and muscle pains in other parts of the body. Because sleep deprivation and pain have a reciprocal relationship, it is difficult to determine which is the cause and which is the effect (if the relationship can even be that simplified).

Chronic Pain

Traditional thinking usually held that chronic pain causes sleep deprivation, as pain often disturbs sleep. This is very likely true for a number of people. Over the past ten years, however, a number of studies have re-examined the relationship between sleep and pain, and more of these studies are supporting the hypothesis that sleep deprivation or frequent sleep disturbances cause pain.

Sleep deprivation may increase pain sensitivity, making pain more acute, or may result in chronic pain. These studies mean a new way at looking at the way sleep affects how we feel pain.

Cortisol

If you suffer from insomnia or any kind of sleep disorder, you already know how important sleep is to your body. Not getting enough sleep can significantly affect your mood, stress level, and physical health. We already know that sleep is closely connected to our body’s hormones (particularly cortisol), which affect a range of things, from our skin to our appetite.

It’s no surprise that sleep is also connected to pain. At one point or another, almost everyone has probably experienced pain related to sleep deprivation. It could be waking up sore after a non-restful night, getting a headache after having only a few hours of sleep, or feeling much sorer following a workout when you have trouble getting enough sleep.

Joint Pain and Back Issues

If you have a long-term sleep disorder, you might be dealing with pain frequently. You might experience back pain, chest pain, or joint pain resulting from a lack of sleep. Of course, this kind of anecdotal evidence isn’t scientific proof.

However, scientists are also very interested in the relationship between sleep and pain. A number of recent studies suggest that sleep deprivation, both for people with serious sleep disorders and for people who occasionally do not get enough sleep, increases pain.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Pain

In 2004, four German psychologists (Bernd Kunderman, Stefan Lautenbacher, Jürgen-Christian Krieg, and W. Schreiber) undertook a comprehensive study to review past studies on the relationship between sleep deprivation and pain processing.

Kunderman et al. assessed data from both human and animal studies to form a detailed picture of how sleep deprivation physically affects the body in relation to pain. They found a number of effects that support the hypothesis that sleep deprivation heightens pain.

Their research shows that REM sleep deprivation resulted in decreased levels of serotonin receptors in the brain. As you may know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. Serotonin plays an important role in inhibiting pain in the body. If your body is unable to process serotonin, it is less able to reduce feelings of pain.

As a result, according to Kunderman et al., “Sleep deprivation appears to enhance predominantly pressure pain sensitivity and to induce muscle pain.”

Sleep Deprivation Increases Pain Sensitivity

In a more specific 2012 study, researchers found that the amount of sleep a person gets affects how sensitive to pain they are. Roehrs et al. completed their study on 18 healthy volunteers who did not have sleep disorders, showing that sleep deprivation can have painful effects even when it only happens on occasion or in small amounts.

The study found that the less sleep the participants got, the more sensitive they were to hot and cold stimuli; their pain threshold was reduced. According to the study, cutting the amount of sleep a participant got in half resulted in a pain sensitivity increase of 24%. This is a significant increase, showing that sleep deprivation really can make you feel more pain.

Participants who got more sleep than their usual amount, on the other hand, had lower pain sensitivity. In essence, the study suggested that sleep can have an analgesic (painkiller) effect. Not getting enough sleep, conversely, can make you more sensitive to pain.

Roehrs et al. suggest that this correlation might occur because sleep disruption can lead to inflammation, and they propose that getting more sleep might help to reduce inflammation, which is of course tied to pain. This idea, however, is still hypothetical. What is clear, though, is that there is a definite relationship between sleep and pain sensitivity.

The Cycle of Sleep Deprivation and Pain

Both of these studies acknowledge that sleep deprivation and pain are linked in a cyclical way. Chronic pain can impede sleep, and chronic sleep problems can lead to long-term pain. This can make it a cycle that’s difficult to break.

Whether you consider sleep deprivation or chronic pain your primary problem (or you’re anxious about both), it’s important to consider that the two issues go together. The best way to find relief is likely to look for solutions to both sides: pain and sleep.

Conclusion on the Relationship Between Sleep and Pain

These studies show promise in revealing the connection between sleep and pain. There is still a lot of work for researchers to do, however. There are a number of different ideas about why exactly sleep deprivation leads to pain, and what precisely is going on behind the scenes in our bodies. Hopefully future studies will give us a more accurate picture.

For now, what we know for sure is that sleep deprivation can make you feel more pain. If you’re struggling with chronic pain, you should do your best to make getting plenty of sleep a top priority. If you’ve been dealing with a lot of pain lately and don’t know why, it’s worth taking a look at your sleeping habits.

The good news is that getting some extra sleep may be able to reduce your pain. Even if insomnia or chronic pain is not a problem for you, if you want to alleviate any pain you’re feeling, sleeping for longer is a great first step. After all, we already knew that sleep helps our bodies in a myriad of ways. It’s hardly a surprise that it may be a natural painkiller as well.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)