Scientists at the Center for Mental Health & Aging at The University of Alabama have recently discovered a link between sleep disturbance, pain, depression and disability in people with osteoarthritis (OA). They studied 228 patients with knee OA in a bid to determine the relationship between these effects of the condition.
At the start of the study, a lack of sleep was found to be independently associated with both pain and depression, but not disability. After 12 months, however, a continued lack of sleep was revealed to have increased depression and disability among patients, but not pain.
Dr Patricia Parmelee described the relationship of these symptoms as a ‘cycle of distress’ and suggested the results of the research will help scientists to assess this further. “This study shows that depression plays a strong role in the sleep-pain connection, particularly with severe pain. Further investigation of sleep in disability progression may lead to new interventions that disrupt the cycle of OA distress,” she stated.
Sleep disorders and OA
Sleep problems are common in knee OA patients, with previous research finding 31 per cent of people with the condition struggle to initiate sleep, while 81 per cent have difficulty maintaining it. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters have general problems with sleeping.
The University of Alabama study was based on 228 patients and its results were published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. Dr Parmelee said the research is unique, as it is the first single study to look into the relationship between sleep, pain, disability and depression in people with OA.
According to an Arthritis Research UK spokesperson said “This important research sheds further light on the relationship between poor sleep and conditions of chronic pain such as osteoarthritis. People with osteoarthritis often report that their pain is worse during the night, and in fact night pain is often a factor that is used to decide whether it is necessary to consider further interventions such as surgery.
“However, there are things that people with arthritis can do to help them manage these symptoms. For example, research has also shown that aerobic exercise improves fitness and reduces pain and fatigue, and should also improve sleep and wellbeing.”
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