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Sleep Review 07/15/2016

Pain and Sleep: Exploring the Bidirectional Connection

No matter where it hurts, the link between pain and poor sleep is undeniable.

“As one who has treated patients with acute and chronic pain for decades, I am well aware of the multiple bidirectional relationships between pain and sleep deprivation,” says Daniel Carr, MD, professor of Public Health and Community Medicine and program director, Pain, Research Education & Policy at Tufts University. “Although widely appreciated for chronic pain (eg, fibromyalgia), the vicious cycle of sleep disruption, increased pain, and disruption of recovery is also well described in acute pain, such as after surgery. Interestingly, not only does sleep deprivation worsen pain and vice versa, but some medicines used to treat pain (eg, opioids) interfere with sleep architecture and reduce the normally restorative effect of sleep.” Carr is also president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

The bidirectional relationship between sleep and pain is being teased apart in numerous studies. Fascinating findings show that not only will a reduction in pain improve sleep, but, conversely, a good night’s sleep also will help lessen pain.

Making the Connection

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) went to the public to find out how significant the issue of sleep and pain is. The 2015 Sleep in America Poll: Sleep and Pain surveyed 1,029 adults and found that those experiencing chronic pain got either a very poor (25%) or fair (38%) night’s sleep compared to those without pain who reported that they got a very good night’s sleep (65%). Overall, those with chronic pain and acute pain reported they could get a good night’s sleep only 39% and 47% of the time, respectively.1

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