A sleepless night can increase pain sensitivity, a recent study by UC Berkeley researchers, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found.
Twenty-five healthy young adults spent two nights, a week apart, in a sleep lab—one night they were allowed to sleep well, one night they were kept awake. The day after each night, the researchers applied gradually increasing levels of heat to the participants’ legs while their brain activity was monitored by MRI scans. After the sleepless night, participants reported feeling more pain at lower temperatures compared to when they had slept well.
Moreover, after the sleepless night, the scans showed that activity in pain-sensing regions of the brain was amplified, while regions that manage pain and activate pain relief were disrupted. These findings “highlight sleep as a novel therapeutic target for pain management,” especially for patients in hospitals, where sleep is often disrupted and pain common, the study concluded.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
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