Improved Sleep Quality Helps Chronic Pain Patients

April Flowers for – Your Universe Online
A new study from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology suggests that chronic pain sufferers could be kept physically active by improving the quality of their sleep. The researchers found that not only was sleep an answer to pain-related insomnia, but it is a worthy target for treating chronic pain. Their results have been published in a recent issue of PLOS ONE.
Chronic pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is a pain that persists for six months or longer. This past August, redOrbit’s Enid Burns reported that more and more patients suffer from chronic pain, with an estimated 100 million people in the US living with the condition.
“Engaging in physical activity is a key treatment process in pain management. Very often, clinicians would prescribe exercise classes, physiotherapy, walking and cycling programs as part of the treatment, but who would like to engage in these activities when they feel like a zombie?” said Dr. Nicole Tang.
Dr. Tang collaborated with Dr. Adam Sanborn to investigate the day-to-day association between night-time sleep and daytime physical activity in patients with chronic pain. “Many of the patients struggled to stay physically active after the onset of pain and we found that chronic pain patients spontaneously engaged in more physical activity following a better night of sleep.”
“The research points to sleep as not only an answer to pain-related insomnia but also as a novel method to keep sufferers physically active, opening a new avenue for improving the quality of life of chronic pain sufferers,” Dr Tang said in a recent statement.
The study participants, all chronic pain patients, wore an accelerometer that measured motor activity to monitor their physical activity around the clock for a week in their usual sleeping and waking environment. Using an electronic diary every morning on waking, the participants also gave ratings of their sleep quality, pain intensity and mood.
Time specific data was used to determine for individual participants whether the quality of their sleep had an impact on how physically active they were the following day. The researchers fit multilevel models for each predictor, finding that the only reliable predictor of physical activity was sleep quality. In fact, a comparison of the multilevel models revealed that sleep was the only reliable predictor of physical activity.
Dr. Tang commented that “the prospect of promoting physical activity by regulating sleep may offer a novel solution to an old problem.”
“The current study identified sleep quality, rather than pain and low mood, as a key driver of physical activity the next day. The finding challenges the conventional target of treatment being primarily focused on changing what patients do during the day. Sleep has a naturally recuperative power that is often overlooked in pain management. A greater treatment emphasis on sleep may help patients improve their daytime functioning and hence their quality of life,” argued Dr Tang.

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