Fight pain with this bedroom tip

Next time pain has you reaching for a pill bottle, reach for your pillow instead -- because sometimes, those aches are just your body's way of calling out for a good night's sleep.

Sleep is a natural inflammation fighter and pain tolerance booster. And since aches and pains are often caused by that same inflammation, plain old rest can be the safest and most natural healer of all.

And in one new study, a little extra sleep even increased pain tolerance.

This one reads a little like a torture experiment, as volunteers were tested to see how much pain they could take after different levels of sleep. One group got up to nine hours a night, while a second group got seven -- or a lot closer to what you probably get, if you're like most people.

After four nights of this, they were asked to press their fingers to a source of heat to see how much they could take. Those who got nine hours of sleep a night were able to tolerate 25 percent more.

It's not the first or only study of its kind. In fact, there's a lot of research on this, and it all points in the same direction -- more sleep equals less pain. In one recent study, even a single night of poor sleep was shown to dramatically reduce pain tolerance.

Clearly, if you're not getting enough sleep, it's time to make some changes -- especially if you've been fighting off some pain of your own.

Don't turn to meds for help with this one, since sleep drugs can bring their own brand of pain in the form of side effects and risks up to and including an increased risk of death.

The real answer for many is simply a change of habits -- less work, less TV, less Internet, or less of anything else that's keeping you up at night. But for many others, sleep problems can have a much deeper cause, including nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.

A holistic physician can help diagnose and treat those conditions naturally. And for comprehensive testing and a complete solution that'll have you sleeping like a baby in no time, make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.