Garrrr...zzz... Pain makes me sleepy
July 22, 2015 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Whenever I get low nagging pain (toothache, for example) it always triggers tiredness. What is this? Is it normal?

Sharp pain, accute pain I can handle. I've had doctors tell me I handle stabs of back pain better than I should, and had sports massage and deep tissues massage types tell me I handle their pain really well. I can work through most pain if I'm the one in control of the pain or I know when it will end.

My problem is with low level pain. Not chronic stuff, but the pain of a tooth ache or (like right now) a series of infected insect bites across the back of my head - ultimately quite minor pain - just covers me in a blanket of do-not-want so thick that I find it hard to stay awake.

Last time I had dental work it was all painless, but I just went home and slept for 18 hours.

Is this normal? Does it have a name? Writing this down, I wonder if it's psychological because I'm out of control and (can be) a control freak at times. Anyone?
posted by Muppet Pastor to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't tell you if it's normal or not, but I experience the same thing, although all pain can make me feel exhausted. It's especially bad if I feel pressured to cover it up or "soldier on" to get work done or smooth things over for someone else. It all just takes energy I don't have.
posted by rpfields at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, pain is pretty exhausting! Unlike dull aches, there's something awakening about throbbing, acute pain. It continuously jolts you into consciousness. For me, I have inflammation issues so one thing that happens when I'm having a flareup is that I feel pressure in my skull and a literal (not perceived) droopiness in my eyelids. That tricks me into thinking I'm more tired/fatigued than I already am. Maybe yours is a misguided inflammatory response too? Doctors haven't been able to figure my sitch out (yet). Totally uneducated guess...
posted by doctordrey at 2:20 PM on July 22, 2015

It's potentially a way of your body saying "this thing (pain/inflammation/whatever) is taking enough additional energy to deal with on our end that it would be really useful if you got some rest".
posted by terretu at 3:17 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Chronic pain, which is what you are describing, is exhausting. It also can be a trigger for sickness behaviour , of which lethargy is a prime symptom. This is, sad to say, the way pain is meant to work in our bodies.
posted by smoke at 4:12 PM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Your body's own cannabinoids, the endocannabinoids, help to relieve some pain.

Some strains of marijuana are notorious for inducing sleepiness.

I think it's reasonable to guess that the kind of pains that are making you sleepy are doing so by causing the release of endocannabinoids.
posted by jamjam at 4:35 PM on July 22, 2015

Pain is stress, and stress saps your mental energy. Not unusual.
posted by kschang at 2:06 AM on July 23, 2015

I've always wondered about this as well! I had a pretty bad injury as a child and had to take pain killers for an extended period. I remember taking my pill and going right to sleep. I often wondered if I hadn't managed to sleep train myself into believing that pain equals sleep, pill or no pill. But, now reading the above posts, maybe it is just the body's natural response to discomfort.
posted by myselfasme at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2015

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