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How does REM sleep deprivation affect pain?

The relationship between sleep and pain is one we don’t yet fully understand. What we do know—and what anyone who suffers from chronic pain can attest to—is that each can have a significant effect on the other. The presence of pain can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, and being sleep deprived can make a person feel more sensitive to aches and pains.

The type of sleep we get -- or don't get -- may be significant when it comes to pain. Researchers are increasingly focusing on stages of sleep that occur in the later stages of the sleep cycle - rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and delta, or slow wave, sleep -- as being critical in protecting pain thresholds. Throughout the night, your sleep unfolds in a recurring and progressive cycle. Over the course of a night, the cycle shifts so that you spend more time in REM sleep and in the later sleep stages that are considered slow wave sleep. If you are sleep deprived, or your sleep is constantly being interrupted, your body does not reach the REM and slow wave-rich sleep that occurs in these later periods.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.