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More and more research is showing that sleep is one of the most important factors affecting one’s overall health. Many individuals, however, face health issues which affect their sleep. Chronic pain is often cited as one of the biggest barriers between people and a good night’s sleep, and medications have for years been the go-to remedy for discomfort while sleeping. However, these medications can have harmful side effects. New research is showing that choosing an appropriate mattress can help alleviate chronic pain without the need for narcotics. Most hopeful of all, a new study published in the journal Sleep Medicine shows that a good night’s sleep can actually alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain.

The University of Warwick’s Esther Afolalu, lead author of this study, says that while most research has focused on how chronic pain affects sleep quality, her data shows that the opposite is just as true:

Sleep and pain problems are two of the biggest health problems in today’s society. The impact of sleep on pain is often bigger than [the impact of] pain on sleep.

Poor sleep quality has been found to be associated with decreased immune responses to bacteria, viruses, and other invaders, increased inflammation, and higher amounts of stress hormones. Worst of all, poor sleep has been shown to increase certain biomarkers which are hallmarks of chronic aches or discomfort.

This research is far from perfect; participants rated their own sleep quality, and qualitative surveys are known to be less reliable than other methods. Still, the researchers are hopeful that this study could open the door to further research into the links between sleep and chronic pain. Similar recent studies have found that poor sleep quality can increase one’s risk of developing other damaging diseases. If you’re suffering from chronic aches or discomfort, ask your doctor about ways you might be able to improve your quality of sleep before you ask for dangerous medications.

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