The Case for Sleeping In

By: Jenna Savage

Sleep deprivation isn’t healthy. It can lead to a decrease in cognitive function and poor academic performance, as we have reported in the past. In addition, it can exacerbate the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Getting a good night’s sleep is therefore important, especially for students. However, it turns out that impacting academic achievement and affecting a student’s susceptibility to stress aren’t the only possible consequences of sleep deprivation, according to a recent PsychCentral article. How much sleep a person manages to get at night can also affect that person’s sensitivity to pain and mental alertness.

A study conducted by Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D. and published in the research journal SLEEP examined 18 healthy patients who were pain-free at the time of the study. The individuals were randomly separated into two groups. One group maintained their usual sleep habits, while the other group spent 10 hours in bed each night. According to the results, the latter group slept, on average, 1.8 more hours than the first group.

To determine the effect of sleeping longer, the researchers administered a series of tests. Daytime sleepiness and alertness were evaluated through the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), while pain sensitivity was monitored using a radiant heat stimulus to which participants applied their fingers.

The results of the evaluations showed that sleeping longer at night increased alertness during the day. It also led the participants to have a lessened sensitivity to pain when compared to the control group. Participants in the extended sleep group kept their fingers on the heat source for 25% longer than the control group, indicating that they had lower pain sensitivity. This 25% increase was greater than increase that resulted from patients taking 60 mg of codeine, as indicated by previous studies.

This is an area that requires more research, especially in the area of chronic sleep deprivation. However, the results show that pain sensitivity and sleepiness are related. Most importantly, however, is the proof that getting an extended night’s rest can be extremely beneficial. Not only can it promote mental health and academic achievement, but it can also improve a person’s resistance to pain. And in addition, getting more sleep will help a person feel more alert and focused.

If you want the benefits of extra sleep but struggle with getting a good night’s rest, consider implementing an exercise routine into your daily schedule. However, if you find that you struggle with anxiety or insomnia which prevents you from falling or staying asleep, you may want to discuss those symptoms with your doctor.