Pain and Sleep

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A few days ago, Krause et al. from the University of California (Berkeley), published the results of their research on the relationship between pain and sleep. They found that poor sleep quality was linked to increases in pain experience, whereas better sleep quality decreased pain. Krause notes that “the results clearly show that even very subtle changes in nightly sleep – reductions that many of us think little of in terms of consequences – have a clear impact on your next-day pain burden”. In the laboratory, they were able to identify that sleep deprivation amplifies the reactivity in parts of the brain (somatosensory cortex) responsible for the perception of pain. Whilst deactivating the responses from some pain relieving centres (insula and nucleus accumbens).

The irony is that pain often disrupts sleep, and thus the pain experience gets magnified and a vicious cycle is created.

How Does Sleep Loss Lead To Obesity?

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Numerous studies have shown a link between sleep loss and obesity. Medical News Today summarises the findings of recent research by Stephanie Greer and her colleagues. They found that brain activity in the frontal lobe was significantly impaired following a night of sleep deprivation. The frontal lobe is responsible for higher mental functions such as “the ability to recognise future consequences resulting from current actions“. It’s thought that the impairment in brain function caused by sleep loss leads to poor food choices…and later to obesity.

This got me thinking…obesity is known to predispose to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a disorder caused by temporary blockages of the airway during sleep. This causes repeated periods when people actually stop breathing…shortly followed by gasps for air. Obviously this affects the quality of sleep and can lead to severe daytime sleepiness.

Could there be a vicious cycle at play here?

Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. Short term sleep deprivation can lead to decreased coordination and reaction time, decreased attention, irritability, headaches, stomach problems, sore joints, etc. Long term sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, heart problems, diabetes and a shorter life span. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night and getting those hours should be one of our priorities. It’s no drama if we get a few shorter nights as long as we make up the sleep debt in the following days.