Posted on: May 29, 2015 at 4:28 pm
Last updated: September 23, 2017 at 12:45 am

Over 30% of the population in the United States suffers from insomnia; at least one in three people will suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime.

The number one reason Americans are losing sleep is from stress or anxiety or sometimes both. Those numbers don’t sound too good, do they?

To make matters even worst, a new study fronted by Dr. Borge Sivertsen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health had linked insomnia and other sleep problems to an increase in pain sensitivity.

The study was published in PAIN, a publication by the International Association for the Study of Pain.


The Study

More than 10,400 adults volunteered to participate in an ongoing Norwegian study on insomnia and pain sensitivity.

Subjects were tested using the cold pressor test, which required them to submerge their hand in cold water. When the pain became unbearable, the subject would remove their hand from the water and cue the researchers that they had reached their pain tolerance.

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Questions about sleep impairment, including total sleep time, sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), and insomnia were all asked. Researchers then assessed the relationship between levels of sleep impairment and pain sensitivity.

The Results


32% of participants kept their hand in cold water during the 106-second test. Those who suffered from insomnia, however, were more likely to take their hand out early. In fact, 42% of participants with insomnia withdrew their hand earlier compared to only 31% of those without insomnia.

The rate and severity of insomnia increased pain sensitivity: those who experienced insomnia more than once a week had reduced pain tolerance 52% more than those with no insomnia. Subjects who only experienced insomnia once a month had an increase of only 24% of reduced pain tolerance.

Sleep latency was also connected to pain sensitivity, though total sleep time seemed to have link on a subject’s tolerance to pain.

Adjustments for age and sex were also made throughout the study and concluded that the relationship between sleep problems and pain sensitivity were unchanged for both factors.

The Future of Sleep Problems and Pain


This study was the first of its kind to link insomnia and sleep problems with reduced pain tolerance.

“While there is clearly a strong relationship between pain and sleep, such that insomnia increases both the likelihood and severity of clinical pain,” Dr. Sivertsen writes, “it is not clear exactly why this is the case.”

The study suggests the link may be contributed to psychological factors, but it is not fully explained in the publication and more research will need to be done to explore the relationship between insomnia and pain.

For more information on the study and insomnia, please read these articles on Medical News Today and Better Sleep Better Life

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