Forget counting sheep—Therapy could help chronic pain sufferers get a good night's sleep

October 31, 2015, University of Warwick
Forget counting sheep -- Therapy could help chronic pain sufferers get a good night's sleep
Dr Tang. Credit: University of Warwick

Research conducted at the University of Warwick indicates that chronic pain sufferers could benefit from therapy to help them sleep better.

The University of Warwick academics found that cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) were either moderately or strongly effective in tackling insomnia in patients with long-term pain. They also discovered that didn't just benefit from improved but also experienced a wider positive impact on pain, fatigue and depression. However they also concluded that therapies only worked when delivered in person.

The study has been published in the journal Sleep. Dr Nicole Tang, from the University's Department of Psychology who led the research said: "Poor sleep is a potential cause of ill health and previous studies suggest it can lead to obesity, diabetes, stroke, - even death. Insomnia can also increase the risk of depression, anxiety and substance misuse. It is also a major problem for those suffering pain that lasts longer than three to six months and that is why we looked at this group.

"This study is particularly important because the use of drugs to treat insomnia is not recommended over a long period of time therefore the condition needs to be addressed using a non-pharmacological treatment. We believe that our results will be of particular interest to and allied health professionals who are taking up an increasingly important role in preventing and managing long-term conditions."

The researchers from the University's Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School ran the first meta-analysis of the effects of non-drug treatments for sleeplessness, examining the experiences of more than a thousand chronic pain sufferers.

They examined 72 studies of a total of 1,066 patients aged 45-61 who suffered from insomnia and experienced pain caused by a variety of ailments such as long-term cancer, headaches and arthritis.

Treatments evaluated covered a variety of approaches. Most popular intervention strategies included psycho-education about sleep hygiene (good sleeping habits such as a regular sleeping pattern), stimulus control, sleep restriction, and cognitive therapy.

In addition to highlighting the positive effect of CBT on insomnia the researchers identified a mild to moderate decrease in pain immediately after therapy. The researchers also noted that improved sleep resulted in a decrease in depression following treatment and atfollow-ups up to 12 months. The research team believes this highlights the value of treating insomnia which exists with as early as possible.

However when delivered electronically - either over the phone or via the internet - the therapies were found to be less effective. Dr Tang said: "We found little evidence that using therapies delivered either by phone or computer benefitted insomniacs. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of using automated sleep treatments. We found that, at the moment at least, delivering therapies personally had the most positive effect on sleeplessness."

The team concluded that more research is now required to establish if it is feasible and cost-effective over the long-term to treat patients using CBT.

Explore further: Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with psychiatric, medical conditions

Related Stories

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with psychiatric, medical conditions

July 6, 2015
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely used nonpharmacologic treatment for insomnia disorders and an analysis of the medical literature suggests it also can work for patients whose insomnia is coupled with psychiatric and ...

Impaired sleep linked to lower pain tolerance

April 30, 2015
People with insomnia and other sleep problems have increased sensitivity to pain, reports a study published in Pain, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

Sleep may stop chronic pain sufferers from becoming zombies

March 27, 2014
Chronic pain sufferers could be kept physically active by improving the quality of their sleep, new research suggests.

More than one-third of perimenopausal women develop insomnia

October 14, 2015
Millions of women may likely be sleep-deprived. It's already a known fact that women are more predisposed to insomnia. Now a new study presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) earlier ...

73 percent of insomniacs cured after 1-hour therapy session

June 2, 2015
A simple one-hour therapy session has helped to cure 73% of people suffering from acute insomnia, according to a new study from Northumbria University released today.

Power naps for insomniacs

January 23, 2015
Daytime naps may hold the key to treating insomnia, Flinders University researchers believe.

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Gov't says health costs to keep growing faster than economy

February 14, 2018
U.S. health care spending will keep growing faster than the overall economy in the foreseeable future, squeezing public insurance programs and employers who provide coverage, the government said Wednesday.

Muscle more important than fat in regulating heat loss from the hands

February 14, 2018
In the first study of its kind, Cambridge biological anthropologists have shown that muscle mass is able to predict the rate of heat loss from the hands during severe cold exposure, while body mass, stature and fat mass do ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.