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Pain and Sleep

Posted By: Layla

You may be in the habit of sacrificing sleep to tackle some of the many tasks you need to accomplish. You might choose to give up a few hours of rest to reserve some time for yourself, or maybe you are one of the many who miss out on sleep because of unrelenting back pain.

Pain and Sleep

Whatever the cause of your sleep deprivation, the effects can be detrimental causing unbearable sleep pain every time you close your eyes.


If you have ever been sleep-deprived, you are likely aware of how lack of sleep can cloud your thoughts and affect your mood. Sleep deprivation can also cause and intensify sleep pain. It’s true. In fact, the aches and pains you feel today can intensify over time resulting in poor sleep quality. That’s because pain can modify the way your central nervous system reacts to pain signals. This is called central sensitization. Sensitized people are more prone to pain, and their pain signals fade slower. Sadly, too many people assume their sleep pain is normal.


Studies show that people who do not get enough rest develop sleep problems and experience more episodes of aches, chronic back pain, stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders. But the harm does not stop there. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can create a continuous cycle of intensified discomfort. That means you could experience more pain from loss of sleep and in turn, lose more sleep because of increased pain. Those who suffer the effects of sleep deprivation are shown to be at a higher risk of developing inflammation and chronic disorders, creating more sleep pain. Some of those conditions include:

  1. Rheumatoid arthritis (and other autoimmune disorders)
  2. Fibromyalgia
  3. Chronic migraines
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome
  5. Muscle pain
  6. Back pain

All of these conditions can cause extreme discomfort for people who suffer from sleep pain and deprivation. Increasing rest time can help diminish these sleep problems, and that starts with your mattress. Solutions like a back pain mattress topper can help increase sleep and decrease nocturnal pain.


As of now, science does not have all the answers. Some theories suggest that sleep loss increases both inflammation and nocturnal pain while decreasing dopamine. Reduced dopamine levels appear to reduce pain tolerance. Inadequate sleep also lowers serotonin levels. If you lack serotonin, you may notice symptoms of depression, increased anxiety and yes, increased sensitivity to pain. Pain while sleeping is extremely prevalent within individuals, and the connection between lack of sleep and nocturnal pain is noted in the following studies:

  1. Researchers at Harvard medical found that both chronic and acute sleep deprivation increase pain sensitivity. With chronic pain and sleep deprivation, mice became increasingly sensitive to pain each day. Sensitivity to pressure did not present itself until the fifth day. Pain sensitivity normalized with the return of adequate sleep.
  2. In another study, a group of healthy people were deprived of slow wave sleep, the same sleep disturbance commonly found in fibromyalgia. After three days, these healthy women experienced increased levels of physical discomfort, and pain with reduced pain tolerance. Their resulting symptoms were quite similar to fibromyalgia.
  3. A review of 16 studies within ten countries evaluated the long-term results of sleep changes on physical health, immune system response and pain perception. In general, the sleep-deprived were found to have higher inflammation levels, elevated cortisol levels (stress hormones) and were twice as likely to have developed a chronic pain disorder. Subjects who lived with osteoarthritis who were able to improve their sleep, reported improved physical function.

Normally, pain serves as a warning, but for those living with chronic pain and sleep disturbances, this can create a vicious cycle. Pain interferes with sleep, and the lack of sleep intensifies pain. Researchers may not agree why sleep deprivation exacerbates pain, but many have concluded that sleep deprivation and pain are intricately linked.


If you find you typically reach for over-the-counter pain relievers after a night of too little sleep, you are not alone – many people deal with their sleep problems by turning to medicine. But if you are sleep deprived, you may find that your pain relievers do not work as well. This is a well-documented problem when discussing nocturnal pain. Studies confirm that improving sleep quality can help over-the-counter and opioid pain medications work more efficiently.

Improving your sleep may lessen your pain and decrease your risk of chronic pain disorders. We want to help you get the quality sleep you need without experiencing awful sleep pain. If your mattress holds too much heat to stay comfortable and if it no longer provides the support you need it is time for a new mattress. Browse our mattresses for back pain and best mattresses for side sleepers to find out how our copper infused mattress can help you sleep cooler and cleaner. Experience less sleep pain while you fall asleep and stay asleep with Layla.