Sleeping and Pain


My mother always said that you can make up for bad sleep the next night. But sleep research debunks that myth, you can never make it up!

Some studies show even losing an hour and a half of sleep can affect your heart and enhance inflammation.

Another study shows lack of sleep changes chemical markings on the DNA of our immune cells and can make them overactive.

In a recent study, everyone who lost sleep showed this impact and after six weeks, the number of immune cells increased. Mouse studies mirrored these results and the animals became more susceptible to disease. Catching up on sleep did not revert these impacts.

We've also known that sleep deprivation makes us more sensitive to pain even though we're unsure why. We sleep in stages including REM or rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep.

A new study looked at pain responses with lost sleep across species and found that disruption to non-REM sleep led to increased pain sensitivity.

The results were affirmed by another finding which showed people with poor sleep were at higher risk for chronic pain. The pain made their sleep worse, creating a vicious cycle.

It turns out certain brain cells or neurons in the front of the brain became more active after injury. And they signaled another set of cells called pyramidal neurons which also became hyperactive. Scientists found the cycle can only be blocked during non-REM sleep.

So, the idea of altering the neural circuits during sleep is an exciting avenue to explore for new therapies to help people with chronic pain!

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More Information

Sleep disorders in chronic pain and its neurochemical mechanisms: a narrative review
Chronic pain (CP) is a prevalent problem, and more than half of patients with CP have sleep disorders. CP comorbidity with sleep disorders imposes immense suffering and seriously affects the patient's quality of life, which is a challenging issue encountered by clinicians. Although the reciprocal interactions between pain and sleep have been studied to some degree, there is still a lack of awareness and comprehensive description of CP comorbidity with sleep disorders. In this narrative review article, we summarize the current knowledge about the present estimates of the prevalence of comorbid sleep disorders in CP patients, sleep detection methods, sleep characterization in CP, and the effect of sleep disorders on CP and current therapies...

Sleep Deprivation and the Epigenome
Sleep deprivation disrupts the lives of millions of people every day and has a profound impact on the molecular biology of the brain. These effects begin as changes within a neuron, at the DNA and RNA level, and result in alterations in neuronal plasticity and dysregulation of many cognitive functions including learning and memory...

Experience and sleep-dependent synaptic plasticity: from structure to activity
Synaptic plasticity is important for learning and memory. With increasing evidence linking sleep states to changes in synaptic strength, an emerging view is that sleep promotes learning and memory by facilitating experience-induced synaptic plasticity. In this review, we summarize the recent progress on the function of sleep in regulating cortical synaptic plasticity...