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Pain Res Manag. 2004 Spring;9(1):25-32.

The effect of sleep deprivation on pain.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Philipps University Marburg, Marburg, Germany.


Chronic pain syndromes are associated with alterations in sleep continuity and sleep architecture. One perspective of this relationship, which has not received much attention to date, is that disturbances of sleep affect pain. To fathom this direction of cause, experimental human and animal studies on the effects of sleep deprivation on pain processing were reviewed. According to the majority of the studies, sleep deprivation produces hyperalgesic changes. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can counteract analgesic effects of pharmacological treatments involving opioidergic and serotoninergic mechanisms of action. The heterogeneity of the human data and the exclusive interest in rapid eye movement sleep deprivation in animals so far do not allow us to draw firm conclusions as to whether the hyperalgesic effects are due to the deprivation of specific sleep stages or whether they result from a generalized disruption of sleep continuity. The significance of opioidergic and serotoninergic processes as mediating mechanisms of the hyperalgesic changes produced by sleep deprivation are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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