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

author image Vivian Manning-Schaffel
Vivian Manning-Schaffel is a journalist, essayist, senior copywriter and rabblerouser who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. A contributing editor at Working Mother and Time Out New York Kids, her work has also been featured in US Weekly, CBS Watch!, Parents, Parenting, The New York Times and The New York Post.
Sleep and Coffee Work Better Than Morphine When You're in Pain
Put down those painkillers and get some serious sleep instead. Photo Credit: Mima88/iStock/Getty Images

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.

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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.

Read more: Meet the Women Who Are Changing Health and Wellness

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.

Read more: 10 Drug-Free Solutions for Every Type of Pain

What Do YOU Think?

Would you be willing to alter your sleep habits if it helps to ease your pain? Do you drink coffee when you’re feeling discomfort? Let us know in the comments below!

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