Sleep loss is a pain – literally!

woman unable to sleep

Poor sleep can heighten our sensitivity to pain, new research has confirmed. When scientists at the University of California subjected 25 volunteers to pain after sleep deprivation they reported feeling the pain sooner. The 25 young participants had uncomfortable levels of heat applied to their legs and, rating their pain on a scale of one to 10, they complained of the pain at 41.6°C after sleeping badly – compared to 44°C when they’d had a good night’s sleep. Brain scans conducted alongside the test showed sleep loss not only amplified pain-sensing regions of the brain, but blocked pain-suppressing centres.

Another online survey carried out among 230 adults of all ages suggested even minor shifts in sleep and wake patterns affect pain sensitivity. After a poor night’s sleep we will feel pain more. It is thought that a region of the brain called the inula, which evaluates pain signals and places them in context to prepare the body to respond, slows down if you’re sleep deprived.

‘The optimistic takeaway here is that sleep is a natural analgesic that can help manage and lower pain,’ said Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California and author of the bestseller Why We Sleep.

Our recommendations to help you sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping here are a few suggestions from the team at The Hub:

  • Magnesium This supplement helps activate neurotransmitters that are responsible for calming the body and the mind. Not only can magnesium help you get to sleep but it plays a part in helping you achieve deep and restful sleep as well. In one study when older adults were given 500mg of magnesium or a placebo the magnesium group had better quality of sleep, plus exhibited higher levels of renin and melatonin, two hormones that help regulate sleep. We offer Nutri Magnesium Glycinate, £18.85 for 60 tablets
  • Neal’s Yard Goodnight Pillow Mist Spritz this blend of lavender, vetiver and mandarin essential oils around your bedroom and onto your pillow to promote a feeling of calm for a peaceful night. £16.50
  • Sound bath Come to one of our sound baths! Lots of people report that they sleep so much better afterwards and it is clinically proven to help with insomnia.
  • Reflexology As well as being a relaxing foot massage, reflexology works on our inner energies to calm a busy mind and body and enable you to sleep better.
  • Yogic relaxation A mix of yogic breath work, chanting and yoga nidra, yogic relaxation is a great way to shut out the world and give you valuable tools if you have sleep issues.

For our guide to non-drug alternatives to taking painkillers, click here