MAR 07, 2019 5:06 PM PST

Sleep Loss Intensifies Pain

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have found that when the brain is deprived of sleep, neural glitches occur, which can intensify and lengthen sickness and injury. The findings have been reported in the Journal of Neuroscience and are outlined in the video.

"If poor sleep intensifies our sensitivity to pain, as this study demonstrates, then sleep must be placed much closer to the center of patient care, especially in hospital wards," noted the senior author of the report Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology.

In this study, the scientists applied uncomfortable amounts of heat to the legs of two dozen healthy volunteers, as their brains were scanned. During times of insufficient sleep, the sensation and evaluation of pain signals and the activation of natural pain relievers was disrupted. 

Not only was pain sensitivity ramped up in the somatosensory cortex of the brain, activity was reduced in an area that raises dopamine levels in response to pain - the nucleus accumbens. "Sleep loss not only amplifies the pain-sensing regions in the brain but blocks the natural analgesia centers, too," Walker explained.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via UC Berkeley, Journal of Neuroscience

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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