Persistent sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, increased blood sugar levels, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and depression.
Because of the above issues, sleep deprivation can indirectly worsen acute and chronic pain:
- Weight gain can cause pain in the lower back, knees, etc.
- Increased blood sugar levels can worsen diabetic nerve pain.
- A weakened immune system can lead to increased inflammation which is a major cause of pain.
- High blood pressure can contribute to low back disc degeneration by decreasing blood flow to the discs.
- Depression can magnify the symptoms of pre-existing pain.
There is a wide range of sleep time that is considered "normal." For adults, the average normal amount of sleep is approximately 7.5 hours per night. Some individuals only require 5 hours per night while some need up to 9 hours per night. How a person functions during the day is the best indicator of how much sleep each man or woman requires.
If, after 6 hours of sleep, you feel refreshed in the morning and energetic during your daylight hours then that is “normal” for you. On the other hand, if 9 hours a night is necessary to feel rested and to function well during the day, then that is your requirement for sleep. In this example, sleeping the "normal" amount of 7.5 hours per night will result in sleep deprivation.
Consult with your medical doctor if you are obtaining what you consider to be an adequate amount of sleep and are still feeling tired during daylight hours. This may represent an organic sleep disorder and should be checked by a medical professional.
Jose Veliz MD is the medical director of Palomar Spine & Pain, in Escondido, CA (North San Diego County).