In addition, here in the United States, 20 percent or 50 million adults, are living with chronic pain. The CDC reports that, around 130 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose every day.
Sleeping Well: Connection To Chronic Pain
Twenty-four healthy, young adults had heat applied to their legs. Simultaneously, brain scans were taken and pain circuits were examined.
The participants did not have any problems sleeping or any pain-related disorders at the beginning of the study.
Next, researchers recorded each participant’s pain threshold with a MRI after a good night’s sleep, while applying increasing levels of heat to the skin.
Once all participants pain thresholds were established as the baseline, the researchers again applied increasing levels of heat to the skin after a night of sleep deprivation.
At this point, all participants felt discomfort at lower temperatures. Pain sensitivity had increased following sleep deprivation.
The MRI’s showed that the brain’s sensory cortex which is associated with pain sensitivity, was hyperactive following sleep deprivation. In addition, dopamine, a neurotransmitter which increases pleasure and relieves pain was at lower than normal levels.
Sleeping Well: Sleep Is a Pain Killer
In Phase 2 of this study, researchers surveyed 230 adults who were registered in Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online marketplace. The participants reported their sleep patterns and pain sensitivity levels over several days.
The results showed that the smallest changes in sleep patterns correlated with changes in pain sensitivity.