BOSTON (CBS) – Getting a good night’s rest or perking up with a cup of coffee may be a more effective way to treat chronic pain than turning to painkillers, a new study suggests.
Harvard Medical School researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted their study on mice. They found that getting more sleep or taking something to feel more alert performed better than standard painkillers at treating pain sensitivity.
Researchers kept the mice awake by entertaining them with toys, which is not unlike how many humans deprive themselves of sleep. They found five days of moderate sleep deprivation “can significantly exacerbate pain sensitivity over time in otherwise healthy mice.”
Common painkillers like ibuprofen didn’t block pain hypersensitivity in the moderately sleep-deprived mice, the study found. But “drugs used to promote wakefulness,” like caffeine and modafinil, successfully blocked the pain.
The researchers think this could lead to a different approach to chronic pain that doesn’t rely only on painkillers.
“Patients with chronic pain might benefit from better sleep habits or taking sleep-promoting medications at night, coupled with daytime alertness-promoting agents to try to break the pain cycle,” Harvard Medical School said in a statement.