Lose Sleep, Gain Pain

I recently came across a study looking at another under-discussed result of insufficient (in duration or quality) sleep. According to a 2006 publication in the journal Sleep, decreased total sleep time or interrupted REM sleep both result in increased perception of pain the following day. The study authors note that these results are significant for pharmacological treatments and conditions that reduce sleep or REM sleep.

Drugs that interfere with sleep include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, reduce melatonin production levels in the body, so it is best not to take these right before bedtime.
  • Beta blockers also keep melatonin levels from rising naturally at night.
  • Some antidepressants increase the levels of brain melatonin.
  • Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, interfere with melatonin production.
  • Alcohol and caffeine can also interfere with melatonin production, as can diuretics and calcium channel blockers.

Conditions that interfere with sleep include:

  • Reflux
  • Sleep Apnea (obesity)
  • Anxiety
  • Shift Work Disorders
  • and more.

Besides affecting pain perception, decreased sleep decreases release of Growth Hormones, which normally heal the damage our bodies accumulate on a daily basis. The combination of these two deleterious effects can lead the chronic pain that is difficult to treat without addressing the root cause.

Use the following strategies to improve sleep and heal pain:

  • Try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time if possible (some jobs make this impossible)
  • A 20 min nap shortly after noon may provide an additional Growth Hormone surge
  • Don’t take NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) close to bed time, limit caffeine (especially after noon), talk to your doctor about occasional use of melatonin for short term sleep improvement when these factors are outside your control.
  • Exercise, especially in the AM
  • Take a cool shower before bed. Reduction in body temperature is associated with inducement of sleep.

Be sure to talk to your health care provider before beginning any supplement or if you have a medical condition.

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