Medical Discovery News

Sleeping and Pain

July 07, 2023 Medical Discovery News Season 18 Episode 868

Episode 868

Sleep and Pain

Welcome to Medical Discovery News.  I’m Dr Norbert Herzog. 

And I’m Dr. David Niesel 

My mother always said that you can make up for bad sleep the next night.  But sleep research debunks that myth, you can never make it up!

Some studies show even losing an hour and a half of sleep can affect your heart and enhance inflammation. 

Another study shows lack of sleep changes chemical markings on the DNA of our immune cells and can make them overactive. 

In a recent study, everyone who lost sleep showed this impact and after six weeks, the number of immune cells increased.  Mouse studies mirrored these results and the animals became more susceptible to disease. Catching up on sleep did not revert these impacts. 

We’ve also known that sleep deprivation makes us more sensitive to pain even though we’re unsure why. We sleep in stages including REM or rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep. 

A new study looked at pain responses with lost sleep across species and found that disruption to non-REM sleep led to increased pain sensitivity. 

The results were affirmed by another finding which showed people with poor sleep were at higher risk for chronic pain. The pain made their sleep worse, creating a vicious cycle. 

It turns out certain brain cells or neurons in the front of the brain became more active after injury. And they signaled another set of cells called pyramidal neurons which also became hyperactive. Scientists found the cycle can only be blocked during non-REM sleep 

So, the idea of altering the neural circuits during sleep is an exciting avenue to explore for new therapies to help people with chronic pain! 

We are Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, at UTMB and Quinnipiac University, where biomedical discoveries shape the future of medicine.   For much more and our disclaimer go to or subscribe to our podcast. Sign up for expanded print episodes at