New Research Says Sleep Loss Makes Pain More Intense

Haven’t been able to catch up with hours of lost sleep lately? Bad. Make time for sleep as your body needs it for several purposes. Not sleeping enough can impact your brain and body adversely. A new study points out that not sleeping deprivation can also make you feel more pain by increasing your sensitivity to it and numbing the brain’s natural pain-killing response.

What Did This New Study Reveal?

A new research which has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience says that sleep loss can make you feel more pain by suppressing the brain’s ability to relieve you of it. This study was conducted by Matthew Walker who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkley and doctoral candidate Adam Krause.

For the study, 24 healthy and young individuals were made to feel pain by the application of heat to their legs. These participants didn’t have any chronic pain or sleep disorders. During this, the brains of the participants were examined. Particularly, the circuits in the brain that process pain were scanned with an MRI to check their pain threshold.

The heat applied was continually increased whilst taking the recordings until a pain threshold was reached for all participants. Then the procedure was repeated after a night of no sleep. This time, the participants felt discomfort to the pain induced at lower temperatures. This showed that their pain sensitivity had been impacted by sleep loss.

A number of conclusions were drawn from the study. These were:

  • The pain levels induced were the same, but there was a difference in the way the brain processed pain when participants were sleep deprived
  • Sleep loss interferes with the neural circuits that process pain as the somatosensory cortex of the brain was hyperactive when the participating individuals were struggling with lack of sleep. This resulted in an increase in their pain sensitivity
  • The brain’s nucleus accumbens activity, which releases dopamine, was lower after a sleepless night
  • The brain’s insula which is responsible for pain response and assessing pain signals was underactive as well following a night of no sleep

How Does Sleep Deprivation Effect The Brain?

Without sleep, your brain’s ability to consolidate memories is negatively impacted. As a result, after a sleepless night you may have trouble learning and memorizing new things. Not sleeping enough also lowers cognitive abilities by making one less attentive. When you are asleep, toxins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and other such neurological disorders are cleared.

Sleep loss can also cause short-term memory problems. Sleep fuels your creative engines and enables you to multitask. A previous study shows how sleep deprived individuals were less original. Sleep loss also shares a link with depression and a number of physical diseases. Lack of sleep can increase one’s risk for developing heart problems, cancer, and diabetes to name a few.

Key Takeaway

Lack of sleep can leave you feeling fatigued, with brain fog, and lowered mental acuity. A new study now shows another way sleep loss impacts one’s brain. It makes one more sensitive to pain and hampers the brain’s ability to rid you of pain. This stresses on the need for catching enough zzz.