A pair of prospective studies have shed new insight on the role between sleep problems and chronic pain.
Researchers presented two studies at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2018), which showed both a predictive role of sleep problems for chronic pain and insight into chronic pain and sleep in adolescents.
“The relationship between pain and sleep is complex, as the consequences of sleep problems can affect perception to pain and, in turn, pain can interfere with sleep quality,” professor Robert Landewé, Chairperson of the Scientific Programme Committee, EULAR, said in a statement. “This is why these studies are important as they help elucidate the role of sleep in chronic pain and highlight it as a potentially important modifiable risk factor for alleviating the distress in these patients.”
In the first study, the researchers found that all four parameters related to sleep—difficulties initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, early morning waking and non-restorative sleep—as well as one parameter related to fatigue, helped predict the onset of chronic widespread pain (CWP) after five years in a model adjusted for age, gender, socioeconomic and mental health. In addition, each sleep parameter—besides having trouble with early awakening—predicted the onset of CWP at 18 years.
“Our results demonstrate that sleep problems are an important predictor for chronic pain prognosis and highlight the importance of the assessment of sleep quality in the clinics,” Katarina Aili, PhD, Spenshult Research and Development Center, Halmstad, Sweden, said in a statement.
The researchers further analyzed all four sleeping problems as a baseline and compared it with people with no sleeping problems.
The participants in the study had not reported CWP—according to the American College of Rheumatology 1990 criteria for fibromyalgia—at baseline or during the previous three years. The study included 1249 participants who entered the five-year follow up analysis and 791 who entered the 18-year follow up analysis.
The second study included 254 students from a Swedish school who completed questionnaires on chronic pain, sleeping problems, stress anxiety and depression.
The researchers found that one in 10 students suffered with chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain, which was associated with reporting severe sleeping problems and as a probable case of anxiety.
“Although the relationship between sleep and pain is complex, our results clearly indicate a strong association which needs to be explored further,” Julia Malmborg, PhD student at The Rydberg Laboratory for Applied Sciences, Halmstad University, Sweden, said in a statement. “As both problems affect the physiological and psychological well-being of sufferers we hope that these results will be used by school health professionals to promote student health.”