Chronic Pain Sleep Studies Indicate the Issue Is Widespread

Chronic Pain Sleep Studies Indicate the Issue Is Widespread

By Ed Coghlan.

It’s a well known fact that the lack of restorative sleep is a problem for chronic pain patients

Two studies presented at a recent European rheumatology conference provide some insight into the role of sleep in chronic pain.  One study shows a predictive role of sleep difficulties for people with chronic pain, while the other provides insight into chronic pain and sleep among teens.

The National Sleep Foundation has been talking about the sleep problem for chronic and acute pain sufferers for several years.  Pain joins two related concerns – stress and poor health – as key correlates of shorter sleep durations and worse sleep quality.

Pain is a key factor in the gap between the amount of sleep Americans say they need and the amount they’re getting – an average 42 minute sleep debt for those with chronic pain

“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,” said Professor Robert Landewé, Chairperson of the Scientific Programme Committee, EULAR. “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.”

There were four parameters relating to sleep that were part of the study.  They include, difficulties initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, early morning waking and non-restorative sleep.  Three was also one parameter related to fatigue.  All were found to predict the onset of chronic widespread pain after five years in a model adjusted for age, gender, socio-economy and mental health.  In addition, all parameters except ‘problems with early awakening’ predicted the onset of chronic widespread pain 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,” said Katarina Aili, PhD, Spenshult Research and Development Center, Halmstad, Sweden.

Additional analysis showed that reporting all four sleeping problems at baseline versus no sleep problems was significantly associated with chronic widespread pain at both time points using a number of models adjusted for age, gender, socio-economy as well as mental health, number of pain regions or pain severity.

Individuals included in the study had not reported chronic widespread pain at baseline or during the previous three years, 1,249 entered the five-year and 791 entered the 18-year follow up analysis. Four parameters related to sleep (difficulties initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, early morning awakening and non-restorative sleep), and one parameter related to fatigue (SF-36 vitality scale) were investigated as predictors for chronic widespread pain.

Sleeping problems and anxiety associated to chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain in adolescents2

One in ten students in the study was suffering with chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain (CMP). Analysis showed that, compared to other students, having CMP was associated with reporting severe sleeping problems as well as probable cases of anxiety.

“Although the relationship between sleep and pain is complex, our results clearly indicate a strong association which needs to be explored further,” said Julia S. Malmborg, PhD student at The Rydberg Laboratory for Applied Sciences, Halmstad University, Sweden. “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.”

The sleep gap narrows sharply among those who make sleep a priority.

Editor’s Note. If you have a “sleep story” to tell, please do in our commentary section.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Kim Romero

Chronic pain is a problem so take all our meds away. That’s gonna help.


“Individuals included in the study had not reported chronic widespread pain at baseline or during the previous three years,” (Quoted from the above article.)

So this study was done with people who did not have chronic pain before the study, but did have problems sleeping, which caused them to develop chronic pain?????

That in & of itself negates it’s findings in my opinion. Most people I know with chronic pain didn’t have sleep problems BEFORE the pain…..the sleep problems came WITH the chronic pain!!!


I cant remember the last time I slept 8 hours straight! That would be awesome to sleep 8 hours and wake up with no pain feeling refreshed. I was experiencing fatigue many years ago and just did a simple 02 sat test which showed my levels dipped significantly during sleep. I just couldnt afford another bill every month (home oxygen) so I just dealt with it. I also have some issues related to my pelvic pain which causes about 3 trips to the bathroom at night. Then add in the pain issues, so my sleep is pretty jacked up. But sleeping is my favorite thing to do now. It lets me escape from all the negativity, stress, and sadness in my life and gives me a respite from my ongoing pain. It amazes me sometimes that I can sleep through some of the pain I have.

Jessamyn Butler

I don’t actually “sleep through the night,” instead I have a series of “naps.” I will go into a “deep, dead sleep” for about an hour, then wake; get up and smoke, probably eat a snack and get a cold drink, go back to sleep for maybe 2-3 hours, then get up again and go to the bathroom, go back to sleep for maybe an hour then I’m back up. For good. Then I have “narcolepsy-like” episodes during the afternoon where sleep completely overtakes me against my will and I have to pull my car over to the side of the road for an hour for safety or go to bed if I am home. I will have about three of these 1-hour episodes each afternoon/evening. FML


No, I don’t believe this study will help anyone at all as long as the different facets of our governing bodies allow it’s people to suffer in severe and long lasting pain. Why keep funneling taxpayer money into studies like this, when the knowledge gained is useless. So then what, those Not suffering pain get a little smarter About pain, so they can do….what exactly? Give us back our prescription opiod medicines and our sleep aids and our anxiety medicines that have been taken away and left us in total despair? Nope. That’s not happening. So, pointless.

I’m dreadfully under treated for pain, was taking 1 Xanax 5x’s/day for 15 years now. (I am on disability for a severe anxiety and panic disorder, and have since developed multiple chronic pain illnesses due to a very bad truck accident many years ago) My medicine was pulled from me all at once following a lecture by my doctor about how the government is cracking down on them especially with patients who take opiods and medicine like Xanax and Valium. So a double whammy of taking away the very medicine I take for my Disability, and one tyl 3 for TN, back pain from ruptured discs, arthritis, broken bones, and another list of diagnosis and diagnosis.

Now they wonder not only why people lose precious sleep, but how it affects their pain…that it makes it worse. What difference does it make when your pain alone causes sleep deprivation.

The chicken or the egg. Which came first. And who cares anyway …. until they treat us humanely once again.

What about the chronic pain patient who wakes up during the night with their body throbbing like a major toothache? I’ve been prescribed more than one medication 2 allegedly stop that from happening. When I have lived a day of my life with some normalcy these medicines don’t touch anything. It’s up every few hours in pain. Then lying there thinking you can’t take a pain pill for you will run short if you do. That’s where the stress and worry comes in. Oh what a beautiful mess they have created for us all!!


I’ve been surviving on 4 hours of non-restorative sleep for more than 2 years now. I am a chronic pain sufferer in my early 40’s due to nerve damage (entrapment), winged scapula and constant muscle spasms, 14 years. The pain has increased significantly since the degradation of my sleep quality and amount. To the point that it’s uncontrollable pain, I can usually maintain the pain with meds and keep it at or under a 4. I haven’t been at a 4 in a year, my feet hit the floor easily at a 6-7 and by the time I go to bed I wish I was at the ER instead.
I’ve tried several sleep aids with some success but no clear winners. I have not tried heavy sedatives like ambien or lunesta, the horror stories are terrifying.


Sleep? What is that?

Not really funny, but sadly it is true. If I get an hour at a time it is a miracle. As a nurse, I was taught that when pain interfered with sleep it was significant and needed to be treated. How times change. I have asked for something to help me sleep and have been denied. Benadryl potentiates opioids. I take it regularly with each pain med. Double duty, it helps my allergies. It fails to help me sleep. It can increase heart rate, bp and interfere with sleep. Be careful mixing over the counter meds, or rather, any meds at all.

With lack of pain control, or sleep, none of us can function with any semblance of normality; mental, emotional or physical. Fact, not supposition.


I dont think the youtube link came through as intended. Just google the “The Other Side Of Opioids youtube”, by Mathew Adams. Very informative and factual!


I guess we have 2 Sue’s. Im a Sue who has posted before.
Six months ago my palliative care Doctor recommended low dose Oxycontin; so that I could sleep through the night; instead of being woken up after 3 or 4 hrs. Then it takes 2 hrs to get back to sleep; which interferes with my daily life. I cant take Morphine. Of course I was denied and just recently they sent an approval for abuse deterent Xtampza er. I have never abused opioids in 2 yrs. Im not even going to try it after reading so many negative reviews. I dont believe everything i read on the internet and maybe some have a positive experience with the drug. I have had enough trial and error with changes in medications and Im just not desperate enough to give this a chance.

The first comment in the above article mentions this youtube video;

When will they stop censoring the truth?

Deborah M Babcock

I have had insomnia due to widespread chronic untreated pain issues. This has been voing on for 25 years. I had a little relief when my previous dr prescribed me percocet. That was about 8 years ago she moved away. I cant find a dr who will listen to me in pain every day and night..i have chronic debilitating migraines,buldging discs in my back,burcittis in both hips now,restless leg syndrome,muscle spasms,ibs,diabetic pains in feet and legs,when i try to relax my whole body feels like its on fire making me have to move constantely while im trying to sleep.the insomnia makes it where i cannot stay asleep for very long at a time all do to PAIN..when i mention the word pain medication or percocet they look at me like im an addict or something then they have drug tested me on two or three occasions all coming back neg in two also battling liver and kidney problems at present moment..if there is something i can do or say to them to have them treat me i would surely like some feedback..Im tired of being in pain !! I also have high anxiety issues and panic attacks…

Susan L.

My husband has endured a lifetime of sleeplessness, but he only understood true “non restorative sleep” after he came down with herpes simplex encephalitis (“HSE”). During the acute phase, and then for years after, he spent the vast majority of any 24-hour period sleeping…but without satisfactory rest. He woke up as exhausted as ever, even with the use of benzos, opiates, Ambien, etc. Medical cannabis is legal in our state, and with his doctors’ blessings, I finally managed to talk my DH into trying it. After some experimentation with dosing, ratio of terpenoids, and delivery method…success! He was finally able to get the sleep he’d always dreamed of. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself 😜)

The cannabis doesn’t always work predictably, but it always help ease many of his symptoms (not just sleep): it reduces the symptoms of his dystonia, including pain; it seems to potentiate his other meds, allowing for an overall reduction in dosing (we’re trying to wean him off the benzos altogether, and the cannabis has helped tremendously); and it seems to ease his anxiety. It has been such a blessing for him. I would encourage anyone to give it a try where it’s legal to do so.

Cheers and love.


I have fms and had sleep issues. A year ago I decided to try the weighted blanket – absolutely amazing! I sleep soundly, restoratively and meds free. For me, a miracle.


The lack of quality sleep for myself with chronic pain xmanifests itself in all areas of my life as a result due to poor sleep patterns. Anxiety,depression and the lack of being able to go on from day to day is enormous. I take my pain meds as ordered and do overmedicate as we as chronic pain sufferers are accused of thus being labeled as causing the opiate apidemic as we all well know. Please do more studies to determine how we can be helped. Have a positive day and keep on trucking all of you!!

After years of living with chronic pain, fatigue and memory loss, after three diagnoses and many drug and therapy trials — Ambien came on the market. Restoring my sleep led to the most dramatic and lasting improvement in my symptoms I had experienced. Still today, while my health is very much improved, if I do not take sleep medication, Lunesta rather than Ambien, I will have a flare of all of these symptoms. After all these years, non restorative sleep is really the only lasting trigger and the only time I need prescription medication to control the widespread pain.


I have ehlers danlos syndrome type 3 and fibromyalgia. My dr would only prescribe me benedryl. Had my pain meds taken away. Sleep when I get it is a blessing.

Stacy Cooper

Although I take Ambien, I still wake up at least two times a night. It’s usually within the first two hours the first time and usually within the next three the second time. It’s like clockwork. I have to cut my Ambien up into three pieces so I can fall back asleep for those two wake up sessions. I never feel rested, never.