Some people have a lower pain threshold. While, there could be several contributing factors, a new study has revealed that people with insomnia and other sleep related problems have increased sensitivity to pain. The study also found that effect on pain tolerance appears strongest in people who suffer from both insomnia and chronic pain and that these people may benefit most from treatments targeting both the ailments.
More than 10,400 adults from an ongoing Norwegian health study were party of this analysis. Each study participant was subjected to a standard test of pain sensitivity, the cold pressor test, in which subjects are asked to keep their hand submerged in a cold water bath. The results showed that pain sensitivity was increased with both the frequency and severity of insomnia. Compared with subjects who reported no insomnia, rates of reduced pain tolerance were 52% higher for subjects reporting insomnia more than once weekly versus 24% for those with insomnia once monthly.
Researchers also found that sleep latency affected pain sensitivity, although this did not affect total sleep time. Age and sex also had no effect on the relationship, but it was found that psychological distress had a small but significant effect on the relationship formed. Patients reporting high problems with both insomnia and chronic pain were more than twice as likely to have reduced pain tolerance and many patients who experience sleep impairment and pain face high costs and personal difficulties.
The study shows the need for efforts to improve sleep among patients with chronic pain and vice versa. Cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches have proved to be effective for pain problems and insomnia individually.
The study appears in PAIN.