GETTING more sleep can be as effective as taking strong painkillers, according to a study showing extra shut-eye every night can be as numbing as a dose of codeine.
Research presented to a world sleep conference in Cairns this week has found that one or two hours more sleep can dull sensitivity to pain as much as 60 milligrams of analgesic drugs.
The results suggest that people who suffer from chronic pain or those who are about to undergo painful surgery should get as much extra sleep as possible.
"Essentially what we're saying is that increased bedtime can act as a pain-alleviating drug," said the lead researcher, Professor Timothy Roehrs, the director of research at the Sleep Disorders and Research Centre of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Scientists enlisted six healthy young adults with no sleeping problems and had them stay in bed for 10 hours a night for six nights in a row. They then compared the effects of a longer sleep with the effects of different doses of the analgesic codeine.
The participants' sensitivity to pain was tested at the start and end of the trial, with researchers measuring how long it took them to pull away from a heated light bulb.
"We found that increasing their time in bed and making them more alert reduced their sensitivity to pain to the equivalent of having taken between 30 and 60 milligrams of codeine," Professor Roehrs said.
The research was presented at worldsleep07, a scientific meeting on sleep disorders such as insomnia, snoring and sleep apnoea.