Written by Dr. Kai Herman
At Elixia Wellness Group, many of our patients suffer from chronic pain. Whether the pain is associated with a recovering injury or a symptom of chronic illness, sleep significantly influences pain levels. As a naturopath, I strongly believe that adequate sleep is an integral part of recovery from any painful condition. Here are a few reasons why:
Several studies evaluating the relationship between sleep and pain have demonstrated that pain tolerance is reduced in sleep-deprived individuals. Subsequently, the sleep-deprived individuals’ pain tolerance improves following a complete night’s rest (defined as 7 hours or more). This research implies that the addition of a quality sleep regimen can increase the efficacy of any treatment plan aimed at reducing pain. However, chronic lack of sleep can be a major obstacle to cure.
In addition to influencing pain tolerance, sleep impacts the levels of inflammation in our body. Inflammatory messengers in the body cause symptoms of pain. Research demonstrates that individuals who routinely skimp on sleep (less than 5 hours per night) have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. This suggests that chronic sleep deficiency can lead to increased pain. Chronic inflammation predisposes one to higher pain levels, but contributes to the development of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. Adequate sleep not only reduces pain-causing inflammation but it helps with overall health.
There is even some suggestion that sleep helps us heal faster from an injury. The faster we heal, the less time we spend in painful recovery. For this reason, many athletes include a full-night’s rest as part of their post-game recovery, in an attempt to re-cooperate from the micro-damage caused during athletic performance.
If your sleep is compromised, follow the “sleep hygiene” tips recommended by Dr. Wenzel. However, pain can be a cause of insomnia, thus creating a vicious cycle of sleep impairment and high pain levels. Work with an Elixia practitioner to help resolve cases requiring more complex and comprehensive treatment, in addition to “sleep hygiene.”