Research Shows Sleep Deprivation Hurts Painkiller’s Effectiveness

Chronic Pain issues affect over 25 million adults and almost 40 million people have dealt with severe pain in the past few months according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.  Many of our clients at Louisiana Disability Law deal with both chronic and acute pain.  

Medical literature defines chronic pain as any pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks.  Chronic pain can result from an injury, a degenerative condition, another underlying illness (like arthritis), or have an unknown cause. 

Acute pain is severe pain that comes on suddenly but does not last for an extended period of time.  Acute pain can be caused by an automobile crash, other trauma, illness, other injuries, or an unknown cause.

Recent research conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center found a surprisingly strong link between pain sensitivity and sleep deprivation.  The study and its results were recently published in the journal Nature Medicine. 

One author noted that after 5 consecutive days of moderate sleep deprivation pain sensitivity was significantly increased.  The study found that common pain relief medications like ibuprofen and morphine were not able to prevent or stop the effects induced by the sleep loss.  Interestingly, drugs that promote wakefulness, like caffeine and modafinil, were successful in stopping pain hypersensitivity due to sleep deprivation.  But, these drugs were not helpful if sleep was normal.

Since fatigue and sleep disorders often accompany chronic pain, the authors noted that higher doses of common painkilling medication may be necessary if sleep deprivation was an issue.  Sleep-inducing medications to promote sleep and drugs that keep a patient alert during the day were noted as probably necessary to break the pain cycle. 

The researchers are hopeful that their findings can contribute to new and innovative ways to treat chronic pain in the future.

As a disability and disabling injury attorney, many of my clients deal with chronic pain issues.  I know that new and innovate pain treatments are wanted and needed.  I am hopeful that this research leads to new treatments that finally brings some relief to chronic pain sufferers. 

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Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney
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