Date: 31 Mar 2010

The relation between sleep and pain among a non-clinical sample of young adults

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Poor sleep is linked to poorer daily functioning and increased risk of psychiatric symptoms. With respect to pain, the relation is bi-directional; poor sleep exacerbates pain, while greater pain adversely affects sleep. Moreover, perception of pain is subject to cognitive-emotional processes. Surprisingly, no data are available from non-clinical samples of young adults. The aim of the present study was therefore to investigate the relation between sleep and pain as a function of quality of life and depressive symptoms in young adults. The direction of influence between sleep and pain was statistically tested with two different structural equation models (SEMs). A total of 862 participants (639 women, 223 men; mean age: 24.67; SD = 5.91) completed a series of validated self-report questionnaires assessing sleep, quality of life, depressive symptoms and cognitive-emotional elaboration of pain. Sleep, pain, quality of life, and depressive symptoms were interrelated. The first SEM suggested both a direct and an indirect influence of pain on sleep, whereas the second SEM suggested that sleep had only an indirect influence on pain. Irrespective of the SEM, the relation between sleep and cognitive-emotional elaboration of pain was mediated by quality of life and depressive symptoms. For a non-clinical sample of young adults, findings did support the bi-directional relation between poor sleep and increased cognitive-emotional elaboration of pain, though other cognitive-emotional processes such as depressive symptoms and quality of life should be taken into account.