Pain and Sleep: An Intimate Connection

Over 90 percent of people with chronic pain also have disordered sleep. This causes an ever-worsening downward spiral – pain begets poor sleep, and poor sleep begets more pain and lack of healing.

Poor quality sleep not only causes physical damage and escalates pain, it prevents your body from making key hormones that give you vitality and protect you from illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Health conscious consumers select nutritious food, incorporate an exercise program, and include dietary supplements in their daily regimen, but may devote little thought to the loss of sleep and how it prevents healing and even accelerates the aging process.

In this issue of Terry Talks Nutrition®, I’m going to share with you information on dietary supplement ingredients that can powerfully address BOTH pain and disordered sleep!

Our Sleep-Deprived World

Lack of quality sleep is associated with a whole host of physical problems, because many physiological functions that impact our health significantly occur only in certain stages of sleep.

Sleep – specifically stage four, or deep sleep – is when our body kicks into repair mode.  In one scientific study, it was found that lack of sleep actually slowed the healing of burns. Additionally, two hormones, melatonin and human growth hormone (HGH), are made almost exclusively during the sleep cycle. Melatonin protects against cancer, and human growth hormone is nature’s anti-aging hormone. Impairment of HGH production by reduced sleep cycles speeds up the aging process. It also decreases daytime vitality and physical healing. Even one night of short sleep increases inflammatory chemicals in the blood. It also increases hunger-promoting hormones, which may be why lack of healthy sleep promotes obesity.  Chronic sleep loss (insomnia) increases the risk of several diseases, such as heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Pain Makes a Bad Situation Worse

I think that now you are seeing how pain and interrupted sleep are a deadly duo. Pain keeps you tossing and turning all night, and prevents full relaxation into deep sleep. Lack of deep sleep keeps you from producing the messengers that direct tissue repair and healing. Lack of healing results in more pain…and on it goes.

In order for you to feel your best, you need to eliminate pain and improve sleep quality. Let’s start with my recommendations for the most effective, natural pain and sleep formula I have ever encountered: curcumin, boswellia and DL-phenylalanine (DLPA), combined with melatonin and pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or P-5-P.


Curcumin has been touted as the “most anti-inflammatory herb on the planet” for a good reason. This multifaceted compound has proven activity against multiple inflammatory pathways, including COX-2, 5-LOX, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, and NF-kappaB.  In America, it is estimated that more than 56 million adults experience chronic pain, with the top five conditions cited being: low back, arthritis, migraine, jaw/lower facial, and neuropathies.

Reducing inflammation is the key. That’s why curcumin is an ideal ingredient. It addresses multiple inflammatory pathways with virtually no side effects.

However, standard curcumin doesn’t absorb well.

That is why I believe that curcumin is best when blended with turmeric essential oil, which boosts the compound’s absorption and blood retention, and delivers turmerones – additional valuable anti-inflammatory components.

Boswellia and DLPA

Boswellia’s anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing activity is linked to the array of boswellic acids in the extract. Scientists found that every single boswellic acid has anti-inflammatory properties – except one.  One boswellic acid (beta) was actually pro-inflammatory.  They found that boswellia’s activity greatly increased when beta-boswellic acid was reduced to less than 5%.

Research studies have found that boswellia is especially potent at reducing joint pain associated with arthritis. It does this by inhibiting the inflammatory enzyme, 5-LOX. Together, curcumin and boswellia reduce the activity of the two most significant pain pathways in the body – COX-2 and 5-LOX.

The pain reliever DLPA is an amino acid that improves mood-elevating chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, while also blocking a nervous system enzyme (enzyme carboxypeptidase A) that intensifies pain signals. DLPA prevents the breakdown of one of the brain’s natural pain-killing substances, enkephalins, which are in the same family as endorphins. Since DLPA combines the “l” and “d” forms of phenylalanine, they work synergistically to reduce chronic pain and improve mood – two concerns that are interconnected. And a healthy balance of neurotransmitters is much more conducive to deep, satisfying sleep.

Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate, or P-5-P

There is a special, active form of vitamin B6 that your body can easily utilize called pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or P-5-P for short. This form has amazing healing properties. I frequently recommend it to people suffering from nerve pain, burning feet (diabetic neuropathy), carpal tunnel syndrome, PMS, and edema (tissue swelling and water retention), among other conditions. The results for these people have been outstanding.

Standard vitamin B6 has to be converted by the liver to the active form the body needs, which is P-5-P. But the low rates of conversion from the inactive to the active form of vitamin B6 can have serious health consequences. By consuming vitamin B6 in the active P-5-P form, conversion is no longer necessary, and the full benefits are available immediately after absorption.  P-5-P is effective for pain, but it is also very useful for quality sleep. P-5-P is required as a co-enzyme in the creation of the feel good hormone, serotonin. Inadequate serotonin is associated with depression and poor quality sleep, so this is an important nutrient to add to your regimen.

Melatonin: The Hormone of Darkness

Melatonin is called the “hormone of darkness” because natural melatonin production is reduced when light strikes the retina of the eye. So it’s important to keep your bedroom as dark as possible and avoid lights in the middle of the night.

Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythms, which are deeply integrated with your sleep/wake schedule. It is a potent antioxidant, and may have cancer prevention properties. But it is probably best known for the impact it can have on increasing REM and stage 4 sleep (the stage of repair and rejuvenation). You may notice that you have very vivid and lively dreams when you first use melatonin. That is because of its expansion of the time you spend in REM (or dreaming sleep). This often tapers off with continued use.

Why Drugs Are Not the Answer!

I believe it is almost criminal that these over-the-counter drugs are being marketed for nightly use. Let’s take a look at the down side of some of these drugs marketed for pain and sleep.

Diphenhydramine (i.e., Benadryl®). This allergy medicine is actually sold for its adverse effect – sleepiness. Other side effects include motor impairment (ataxia), dry mouth and throat, flushed skin, increased  heart rate (tachycardia), blurred vision, lack of pupil accommodation which can lead to dangerous falls in older adults, abnormal sensitivity to bright light (photophobia), pupil dilation (mydriasis), urinary retention, constipation, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, visual disturbances, hallucinations, irregular breathing, dizziness, irritability, itchy skin, confusion, decreased  body temperature, erectile dysfunction and delirium.

Ibuprofen (i.e., Motrin®, Advil®). It is astounding to think that this non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is responsible for over 16,000 deaths per year, and is still considered “beneficial”. Aside from that terrible statistic, other adverse effects include:gastric bleeding, ulcers, confusion, hypertension, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, coughing up blood or vomit; swelling or rapid weight gain; urinating less than usual or not at all; kidney failure; nausea, stomach pain, low fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash; bruising, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness; or fever, headache, neck stiffness, chills, increased sensitivity to light, purple spots on the skin, and/or seizure (convulsions).

Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol®).  It is shocking that a drug Americans think of as “harmless” is actually the number one cause of liver failure, as well as the most common cause of serious overdose in North America!  Acetaminophen is especially dangerous with alcohol consumption, and it depletes glutathione, a vital endogenous antioxidant and detoxifying compound. Other adverse effects are associated with liver toxicity, and include jaundice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal tenderness, interference with normal blood clotting, weakness, kidney failure, cardiomyopathy, and death.

Potent Combination, Astounding results!

The best answer to the deadly duo of pain and disturbed sleep is a natural solution. Curcumin, boswellia, DLPA, P-5-P, and melatonin combine to make the most powerful anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and sleep combination you can find. These ingredients have been proven time and again to be highly effective and safe for extended use.

These ingredients will benefit anyone who is suffering from sleep problems worsened by pain, whether it is acute, sudden pain such as a strain, over exercising, sprains, or any exercise-induced injury, or chronic pain from arthritis, migraine headaches, bursitis, back pain, or any recurring pain. Research shows that these ingredients are as effective (or more so) as synthetic drugs, but without the side effects. You’ll notice an amazing change for the better, getting the rest you need and once again, enjoying your life to the fullest!

I believe a combination of nutrients is best for addressing pain and sleep issues. I recommend curcumin enhanced with turmeric essential oil, a boswellia resin extract standardized for AKBA, DLPA, vitamin B6 as P-5-P, and melatonin.

For more information, watch this video: You Can Get A Great Night’s Sleep – No Matter What! Presented by Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum