Could Sleep & Caffeine Be Better Than Painkillers?


woman drinking coffee looking out windowIf you suffer from chronic pain, getting a full night’s worth of sleep on a regular basis may reduce your sensitivity. Even without a full eight hours of sleep, caffeine may also help. A recent study has found that people who are more wakeful and rested experience pain less keenly.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, found that experiencing chronic sleep loss causes a heightened sensitivity to pain. They also found that drugs that promote wakefulness mitigate this effect while painkillers become less effective.

Is There a Link Between Sleep Loss and Pain Sensitivity?

Researchers used mice to study the effects of sleep loss on chronic pain. The mice were kept awake using entertaining games and activities to induce sleep deprivation. Later, the mice were subjected to different types of pain stimuli. The time it took for them to flee the pain was noted along with their pain- and stress-related hormones.

Researchers found that sleep deprivation in mice causes a hypersensitivity to pain that makes regular painkillers less effective.

Study authors noted that five consecutive days of moderate sleep deprivation significantly increased pain sensitivity. A common painkiller like ibuprofen did not block the sleep-induced pain hypersensitivity. Caffeine and modafinil, both used to promote alertness, did block the pain sensitivity caused by sleep deprivation, however.

Should You Substitute Coffee for Ibuprofen?

Trading a cup of coffee for a pain pill may be the best way to manage your pain if you’re suffering from sleep loss. If you’re caught in a cycle of pain and sleep loss, your neurologist may prescribe a combination of sleeping medication at night and wakefulness medication during the day to break the pain cycle and help you cope.