Is there a correlation between sleep and pain? It has been well established in previous research that sleep can affect pain intensity and sensitivity.

This is likely through altering the responses of central and autonomic nervous systems, inflammatory pathways, cognition, mood and behaviours.

This systematic review by Whibley (2019) aimed to identify and appraise the current research investigating the how sleep and pain intensity are linked. After a screening process, nine suitable articles were included for analysis, and the information collated into their review.

This review worked to establish the differing mediators affecting sleep and pain intensity. In summary, these mediators included:
  • Depression and/or anxiety symptoms
  • Attention to pain
  • Pain helplessness
  • Activation of the stress system (cortisol activity)
  • Fatigue levels

The authors of this review realised that further research on this topic is needed, especially into what are the best methods to manage sleep in order to reduce these mediators. However, this review sets a solid platform for future research topics and studies.

In conclusion, it is still important to prioritise sleep as an important part of recovery and pain management, and to also seek help to address the mediators established from this review, in order to best maximise sleep patterns and promote good self-efficacy when it comes to managing pain.

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Sleep and Pain: A Systematic Review of Studies of Mediation

A relationship between sleep and pain is well established. A better understanding of the mechanisms that link sleep and pain intensity is urgently needed to optimize pain management interventions. The objective of this systematic review was to identify, synthesize, and critically appraise studies that have investigated putative mediators on the path between sleep and pain intensity.

Author: Nick Adkins

Nick grew up in the small town of Daylesford, before moving to Ballarat for University studies in Exercise Science and Clinical Exercise Physiology. Throughout his studies, he completed placements at the Exercise Therapy Department of Ballarat Health Services, the Maryborough Hospital and McKellar Community Rehabilitation Centre in Geelong. Nick has a particular interest in rehabilitating injuries through strength training, particularly lower back pain. Nick includes sound principles of exercise science, strength and conditioning, neurology and pyschology into his treatment methods. Outside of work, Nick enjoys spending time with friends and family, walking his dogs Olly (Great Dane) and Yoshi (Husky) and playing basketball.

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