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Sleep and Coffee Work Better Than Morphine When You're in Pain

By Vivian Manning-Schaffel ; Updated March 16, 2018

Are you catching enough Z's? We hope so, considering sleep and a morning cup of coffee have some seriously unexpected benefits according to a recent study published in Nature Medicine.

Scientists from Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discovered that not getting enough sleep can bring on more sensitivity to pain. Conversely, one more hour of sleep a night can help to ease pain, and so can caffeine. Maybe you should put down those painkillers and catch some Z's instead.

For the study, scientists kept groups of mice awake for as long as 12 hours in one session, or six hours at a time for five days in a row, using toys like cotton balls. During the study, the scientists also exposed the groups of mice to heat, cold, pressure and capsaicin (the compound that makes chili peppers hot) to see how long it took the mice to react.

When the scientists monitored how sleepy the mice were and tested the rodents for pain, they discovered that sleep deprivation can make otherwise healthy mice more sensitive to pain. Researchers also found that caffeine successfully blocked the pain hypersensitivity caused by sleep loss. And caffeine worked better than the pain meds they administered to the mice, including morphine and ibuprofen.

So if you suffer from chronic pain — especially pain from migraines, arthritis or fibromyalgia — these researchers recommend good sleeping habits or sleep-promoting medication and a nice cup of java in the morning to help break the pain cycle. And it’s been recently reported that healthy adults can safely drink as much as four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day, so we say go for it.

Just don’t overdo it on the coffee too late in the afternoon or at night. A late-night latte can work against you and your pain by keeping you from getting the sleep you need, and it can lead to headaches, poor concentration and anxiety the next day.

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