Drinking coffee when you’re tired is a tried and tested way to perk up mentally, but now, new research has found that it might also make you feel better physically.
Sleep is a vital part of recovery, and trouble sleeping can cause or exacerbate pain. A study from Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has investigated the link between chronic sleep loss and increased pain sensitivity. The studies were carried out with mice, and showed that animals deprived of sleep for five consecutive days or more became significantly more sensitive to pain. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and even strong drugs such as morphine proved to be relatively inefficient at treating this type of pain.
Caffeine stimulates the release of dopamine, otherwise known as the ‘pleasure chemical’, helping to alleviate the pain. It isn’t, however, effective at reducing other types of pain such as that caused by injury. The study showed that in non-sleep-deprived mice, coffee had no analgesic effects.
Researchers concluded that patients with chronic (longterm) pain might benefit more from medicine that helps to promote sleep, allowing them to re-establish a healthy sleep cycle, rather than taking pain killers. They’d also be encouraged to promote a state of wakefulness during the day (by not napping, and using stimulants such as coffee) to maintain the sleep cycle. The research was published in Nature Medicine in May 2017.
Some commercial painkillers already contain caffeine as one of the ingredients, and which apparently has a boosting effect and helps to deliver relief more quickly, although the delivery mechanism is not yet clearly understood.
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