In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Do Sleep Patterns Increase Chronic Pain?

sleep patterns

Many people who live with chronic pain experience difficulty sleeping. Their sleep patterns may be irregular, with them getting sleep when and if they can. We know how important getting quality sleep is on a regular basis, but we are also learning that not having healthy sleep patterns may also lead to chronic pain. While chronic pain can lead to a loss of sleep, it turns out that not having a healthy sleep pattern can also lead to chronic pain.

Many things can lead to a loss of sleep, but one that stands out for many people is stress. Those who have a lot of stress in their lives tend to have sleep patterns that are not as healthy, which in turn can lead to chronic pain conditions. A study published in the July 2022 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine looked at Native Americans concerning this issue [1].

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The report shares that Native Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic white people to have more chronic pain. However, the reasons for this are unclear, so they set out to determine if the adversity issues they face may lead to stress, which leads to unhealthy sleep patterns, which may, in turn, lead to chronic pain.

The research found that Native Americans experience more psychological stress and sleep problems. Still, when they controlled for such things as age, sex, physical health, and general health, ethnicity was no longer a factor when it came to having sleep problems. They did find that psychological stress promoted sleep problems, which was associated with greater temporal summation of pain, but it wasn’t associated with other measures regarding pain.

They conclude that psychological stress does lead to sleep problems, which can put people at a greater risk for experiencing chronic pain. This means it’s crucial to help people learn to find healthy ways to address stress so that it doesn’t put their health at a higher risk.

Those working with people who may have more factors in their life that lead to stress, especially Native Americans, may want to consider offering healthy ways to de-stress on a regular basis. There are many ways people can reduce stress, including meditating, doing breathing exercises, being physically active, doing yoga, attending a support group, and more. If people find the options they enjoy, they will be more likely to stick with doing them regularly, so they can help keep stress from impacting their sleep patterns and ultimately help reduce the pain associated with the lack of sleep.

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Like what you’re learning? Consider enrolling in the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC’s online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Pain Medicine in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Source:

  1. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Sleep Problems Mediate the Relationship Between Psychosocial Stress and Pain Facilitation in Native Americans. July 2022.
Posted: August 18, 2022
<a href="https://ostrowon.usc.edu/author/richeimer/" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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