For those suffering from chronic pain, researchers have found two factors that are more effective than pain relievers—sleep and coffee.
Research from Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston tested pain levels in mice when they were well-rested and alert against when they were sleep deprived.
Scientists found that chronic sleep loss increases pain sensitivity, according to a news release from Boston Children’s Hospital. If chronic pain sufferers can get more sleep, they can find relief. Researchers also learned that caffeine, coffee or medications that create wakefulness also helped.
When most people encounter pain, they reach for analgesics such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin or, in more extreme cases, morphine. However, researchers discovered these painkillers did not block pain sensitivity from sleep loss. Caffeine and other drugs used for wakefulness, such as modafinil, did.
“This represents a new kind of analgesic that hadn’t been considered before, one that depends on the biological state of the animal,” says Clifford Woolf, director of the Kirby Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Such drugs could help disrupt the chronic pain cycle, in which pain disrupts sleep, which then promotes pain, which further disrupts sleep.”