Sleep Disorders

19 October 2007

Less sleep, more pain?

Poor sleep can raise risks for pain in women, a new study suggests.

Poor sleep can raise risks for pain in women, a new study suggests.

"This study finds that fragmented sleep profiles, akin to individuals suffering from middle of the night insomnia, health care workers on call, and parents caring for infants, alter natural systems that regulate and control pain, and can lead to spontaneous painful symptoms," researcher Michael T. Smith, of Johns Hopkins University, said in a prepared statement.

The findings are published in the April 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

The study included 32 healthy women who were studied for seven nights. For the first two nights, the women slept undisturbed for eight hours. For the next few nights, the women were then assigned to one of three groups: a control group that continued to sleep undisturbed; a forced awakening (FA) group awakened once an hour (eight times) through the night; and a restricted sleep opportunity (RSO) group subjected to partial sleep deprivation by delaying their bedtime.

On the sixth night, the women in both the FA and RSO groups underwent 36 hours of total sleep deprivation, followed by an 11-hour recovery sleep.

Sleep tied to spontaneous pain
During the study, researchers tested the women's pain thresholds and pain inhibition. The women in the FA group showed an increase in spontaneous pain, while those in the control and RSO groups showed no changes in spontaneous pain or pain inhibition.

"Our research suggests that disrupted sleep, marked by multiple prolonged awakenings, impairs natural pain control mechanisms that are thought to play a key role in the development, maintenance, and exacerbation of chronic pain," Smith said. – (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
Sleep Centre
Pain Centre

Arthritis Foundation of South Africa
Multiple Sclerosis South Africa
The South African Society of Physiotherapy

April 2007


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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