Sleep is a necessary part of human life. At some point during a day, sleep is required to keep the body functioning properly. We need sleep to help the body replenish itself and this can be validated when you have a good night’s rest and wake up feeling renewed, refreshed and revived.
Sleep has also been associated with keeping our heart healthy, making us more active, boosting memory, assisting with weight loss, reducing chronic inflammation, reducing the risk of depression and reducing stress. However, can sleep also be causing your pain? In some ways, the way you sleep may indeed be causing your pain, increasing the pain you currently have or possibly putting you at risk of injury. Hence, these elements related to sleep and the connections to your pain are highlighted below.
First is the possibility that your sleep may be causing you pain. Although sleep is good and necessary for the body, your sleep patterns and sleeping positions could be less than desirable. In essence, if you are not getting enough sleep, then the amount of sleep you are getting is certainly problematic because it is not able to do what it needs to do for your body. Hence, in this situation, the insufficient sleep that you are getting may be causing your pain.
Yes, there is a connection between sleep and pain.
Lack of sleep or getting insufficient sleep can lead to inflammation and chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that interrupted sleep patterns can make people more pain-sensitive . In essence, when we get enough or sufficient sleep, our body is able to heal and replenish itself. Lack of healing and the increased risk of inflammation can make us more prone to overworked muscles, tendons, ligaments and other body parts. When parts of the body do not get time to rest, we begin to feel stress and soreness. There is really no way to permanently trick the body into thinking that it has acquired adequate rest.
On the contrary, adrenalin glands may kick in sometimes and gives the body a boost to complete a job or task. However, such surges of energy and activity are usually only temporary and could be more damaging to the body in terms of maintaining healthy patterns of rest and sleep. Poor sleep habits may not develop overnight but can severely affect the body over time.
How much sleep are you getting? How well do you sleep?
Unfortunately, problems with sleep can escalate. The inability to sleep that recurs every night may be attributed to insomnia. It can be very frustrating to lie awake in bed for hours before finally drifting off to sleep. In some cases, a person may then wake up a few hours later and not be able to sleep for the rest of the night.
Different factors could be contributing to the insomnia that a person may be experiencing. Some of these factors are referred to as sleep hygiene factors and are habits or activities that can interfere with sleep and thereby contributes to the subsequent occurrence of pain within the body.
These sleep hygiene factors may include but are certainly not limited to:
- consumption of high caffeine drinks such as coffee during the later hours of the day
- sleeping with the lights on
- eating a heavy meal very late in the day
- trying to sleep in an area where there is noise such as in front of a television
Apart from insomnia affecting mental health, it also is directly related to painful conditions developing and escalating within in the body. Specific painful conditions in the body that could occur from or are related to insomnia include heartburn, asthma, breathing problems, arthritis and other kinds of chronic pain. Another consequence of insomnia is restless leg syndrome in which a person experiences some level of pain and discomfort that culminates in an urge to continuously move the legs when at a resting position.
Sleep related problems like insomnia can be associated with medical syndromes like fibromyalgia and this medical condition can have pain symptoms and discomfort that is widespread in the body. The pain from fibromyalgia is also characterized by stiffness in the joints and muscles. There is an intricate relationship between sleep and pain and this can be seen in cases of people experiencing fibromyalgia who become affected by sleep disturbances and then see an improvement in pain symptoms associated with this condition when sleep disturbances are reduced .
The way the body is also positioned during sleep could also cause pain. This could be due to the way a person shifts, turns or lodges his or her body amongst bedding, pillows and other items on the bed or surface where sleep is occurring. Hence, sometimes, a person wakes up and notices a very distinct pain from a part of the body that was not positioned properly during sleep. Due to improper posture throughout the sleep period, the muscles and joints could become stiff, sore and stressed. This can then result in pain and inflammation as the affected regions give off distress signals.
Hence, how a person sleeps and how much quality sleep a person gets is very important. Thus, in this way, there is also a connection between sleep and the risk of injury. Also, particularly for people who may engage in certain types of activities, disturbed sleep patterns and the inability to get sufficient sleep could lead to injury due to daytime sleepiness.
Research studies involving statistical methods like univariate analysis also show that, amongst adolescents in farm areas, sleep patterns are associated with increased risk of injuries . In addition and also related to the youth, a study involving a group of 112 male and female adolescent athletes with an average age of 15 years were 68% less likely to be injured when able to sleep for eight or more hours every night . Amongst adults as well, there could be the increased risk of injury when insufficient sleep patterns are occurring.
A loss or lack of sleep can cause accidents, low levels of alertness, significant health problems including heart disease, weight gain, forgetfulness, depression, premature aging, a low sex drive, impaired judgment and an increased risk of death . There are all very significant issues which could lead to even worse problems.
Gaining weight as a result of lack of sleep could make a person less agile and more prone to falls and injury. Gaining weight from lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits may also placed added mass or fat on the joints and other part of the body, causing inflammation and soreness as the body tries to cope with the additional weight. This can continuously cause increased pain the affected areas and such pain may not go away immediately or easily until sleep patterns change. Lack of sleep can also affect the mind and diminish or slow down your thought process, impair memory, put you in a bad mood and make learning difficult .
Another element related to sleep patterns is how it could be increasing your pain. Researchers are exploring the growing evidence that poor sleep is connected to increases in pain such as knee pain . Unfortunately, the interactions between poor sleep patterns and the pain that could be experienced may become a vicious cycle where lack of sleep causes pain in the body and pain in the body subsequently prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep. It may be somewhat easier to comprehend the fact that pain can prevent a person from sleeping properly. However, sometimes, insufficient attention is given to pain that result from the way a person may sleep. How a person sleeps could determine the potential existence of one or more sleep disorders.
Research study results also reveal that sleep deprivation related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may also be responsible for increased acute pain sensitivity . Thus, where the presence of pain can easily affect the quality of sleep a person gets, there is also evidence to show that disrupted sleep patterns may actually enhance pain. Hence, getting enough sleep is essential.
However, how much sleep is enough?
The sleep requirements for various groups may vary. However, as a general guideline, adults can benefit from about 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Teenagers benefit from about 9 hours of sleep per day, while infants are known to benefit from about 16 hours of sleep per day. In reality, the number of hours of sleep for these groups may differ slightly. However, getting enough hours of sleep within the vicinity of the hours of sleep suggested above is recommended.
If you are looking for other foods to help you with inflammation and joint pain, then check out 101 Superfoods that Stop Your Joint Pain & Inflammation:
Rick Kaselj, MS
 Insomnia Until It Hurts
 National Sleep Foundation – What is Fibromyalgia?
 Sleep Patterns and Risk of Injury – PubMed
 Lack of Sleep Tied to Teen Sports Injuries
 Coping With Excessive Sleepiness
 What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Mind
 Can Poor Sleep Increase Knee Pain?
 REM Sleep Deprivation and Increased Pain Sensitivity