Sleep problems in young adults, especially women, are significantly linked to chronic pain and even worsening pain severity over time, researchers report.
Overall, 38 percent of young adults with severe sleep problems at initial evaluation had chronic pain at follow-up, compared with 14 percent of those without initial sleep problems.
Early identification and treatment of sleep problems may help reduce later problems with musculoskeletal, headache and abdominal pain in young adults.
“In contrast, the presence of pain generally doesn’t predict worsening sleep problems during the transition between adolescence and young adulthood,” said Dr Irma J Bonvanie from University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
The team analysed relationship between sleep problems and pain in nearly 1,750 young adults in the age group 19-22.
The study, published in the journal PAIN, focused on overall chronic pain as well as specific types of pain: musculoskeletal, headache and abdominal pain.
The long-term associations between sleep problems and the pain types were compared between the sexes and the mediating effects of anxiety and depression, fatigue and physical activity were explored.
The results suggested that the relationship between sleep problems and pain was stronger in women than men — a difference that may start around older adolescence/emerging adulthood.
Three years later, those with sleep problems were more likely to have new or persistent chronic pain.
People with sleep problems were more likely to have chronic pain and had more severe musculoskeletal, headache and abdominal pain.
“The findings suggest that sleep problems may be an additional target for treatment and prevention strategies in female young adults with pain,” the authors suggested.