A group of researchers from Berkeley University have conducted an enlightening study that relates sleep to our pain tolerance threshold and which has showed that sleeping well and for a long time acts as an effective painkiller.
Sleep acts in a way that influences the brain mechanisms that regulate our pain threshold. When we are sleep-deprived, the lack of sleep “not only amplifies the brain’s pain perception regions, but also blocks the natural centers that help reduce the feeling of pain”, said Matt Walker, one of the authors. The brain areas affected by sleep’s effects on pain are the nucleus accumbens (linked to the mechanisms of reward and pleasure) and the lobe of the insula (the place where the feelings of pain are processed), while for the experiment in question, which was conducted on 25 people, the primary somesthetic area (somatosensory cortex) that is involved in the perception of touch, was also found to have a role.
In order to conduct the study, the researchers asked the participants to show up after a full night’s sleep and measured the pain threshold of each study subject. Subsequently, the subjects of the research were asked to sleep less. It was found that after losing sleep (even in modest quantities), people could bear less of the same painful stimuli than when they had slept regularly. The pain was caused by hot electrodes being applied to the left leg.
Sleeping, therefore, not only makes you feel good but is a real natural painkiller, one that is effective and free of contraindications.