sleepA  research published in the journal SLEEP, revealed that enhanced sleep time and reduced sleepiness in mildly sleepy, but otherwise healthy, individuals increases alertness and in turn reduces pain sensitivity.

“Our results suggest the importance of adequate sleep in various chronic pain conditions or in preparation for elective surgical procedures,” says Timothy Roehrs (Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan).

“We were surprised by the magnitude of the reduction in pain sensitivity, when compared to the reduction produced by taking codeine.”

The research study involved eighteen participants who did not have unusually short bedtimes, at an average of 7.4 to 7.8 hours per night, but they were excessively sleepy, with an average daily sleep latency on the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) of less than 8 minutes, despite having an unusually high sleep efficiency, at 94%.

Half of these participants were randomly selected and assigned to undergo four nights of extended bedtime (10 hours) and these individuals ended up sleeping 1.8 hours more per night than the remaining participants who continued with their habitual bedtimes.

Researchers observed that the average daily sleep latency increased over the 4 days in individuals in the extended bedtime group, from an average 4.5 minutes to 9.6 minutes by day 4, but not in those continuing with their normal bedtimes.

It was also reported that the benefits of increased sleep time and reduced sleepiness were associated with reduced sensitivity to pain.

The length of time it took patients in the extended sleep group to withdraw their finger from a radiant heat source increased by 25%, whereas there was no increase in the habitual bedtime group.

Researchers concluded that, “the current results suggest that the increased pain sensitivity of the sleepy individuals is the result of their underlying sleepiness “.

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