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Why Insomnia is Painful

When you are running off of no sleep, it is pretty much impossible to enjoy anything, let alone deal with anything the least bit unpleasant. This doesn’t just apply to your mental well-being either. A study done at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that people who are sleep deprived have less physical pain tolerance compared to people who get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.

This means that if you only caught a few hours of zzz’s the night before, then stubbing your toe on your bed frame is going to hurt a ton more than if you were to have kicked the side of your bed while well rested.

The study, one of the most in depth of its kind, was able to link insomnia with pain tolerance levels, as well as proving that people who have chronic pain experience their pain as more intense than they normally do if they have disturbed sleep as little as two nights a week. This was no small survey either, with 10,400 participants being involved, the study comprehensively examined how long it took each person to fall asleep, as well as how long each person slept for each night. Pain levels, anxiety issues and depression were also factors that were looked at with each participant. 

In order to test pain tolerance, each individual was given a test where they had to place their hands in ice cold water for 106 seconds. The researchers documented how long each person was able to tolerate the ice water. This date was then compared to their sleep information. Those who were classified as insomniacs were 42 percent more likely to prematurely take their hands out of the water than those who slept regularly. The less sleep the insomniacs got, the more their pain tolerance decreased. It was also found that people that had chronic pain to begin with had double the chance of experiencing more pain when on less than desirable sleep amounts. 

Although the researchers were sure of the connection between insomnia and pain tolerance, they are still unsure why the two are linked. Since the findings were so intriguing, a further study is in the works to scientifically determine why exactly psychological factors influence pain levels when lack of sleep is involved. It can be assumed, based on other studies, that insomnia has a significant impact on mental and physical health, including heart problems, obesity and depression. Further studies are needed to understand what is it about sleep that plays such a big role on our wellbeing.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Calvin Lee

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