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Sleep can help relieve chronic pain

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UK researchers have identified a link between chronic pain and lack of sleep, and say that helping patients sleep better can help them cope with conditions like back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Researchers from the University of Warwick´s Sleep and Pain Lab found that people with pain who believe they won´t be able to sleep are more likely to suffer from insomnia, thus causing worse pain.

But the good news is that negative thoughts about insomnia and pain can be effectively managed through cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

Esther Afolalu and colleagues have formulated a pioneering scale to measure beliefs about sleep and pain in long-term pain patients, alongside their quality of sleep.

Tests on four groups of patients suffering from long-term pain and bad sleeping patterns showed that the Pain-Related Beliefs and Attitudes about Sleep (PBAS) scale predicted patients´ level of insomnia and pain difficulties. With better sleep, pain problems are significantly reduced, especially after receiving a short course of CBT for both pain and insomnia, the University of Warwick said.

The study gives therapists the means with which to identify and monitor rigid thoughts about sleep and pain that are sleep-interfering, allowing the application of CBT for insomnia in people with chronic pain.

Afolalu explained: “Current psychological treatments for chronic pain have mostly focused on pain management and a lesser emphasis on sleep but there is a recent interest in developing therapies to tackle both pain and sleep problems simultaneously. This scale provides a useful clinical tool to assess and monitor treatment progress during these therapies.”

The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.