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Sleep disturbance and pain in U.S. adults over 50: evidence for reciprocal, longitudinal effects.

Griffin SC, Ravyts SG, Bourchtein E, Ulmer CS, Leggett MK, Dzierzewski JM, Calhoun PS. Sleep disturbance and pain in U.S. adults over 50: evidence for reciprocal, longitudinal effects. Sleep Medicine. 2021 Oct 1; 86:32-39.

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship between sleep disturbance and pain over a 14-year period. METHODS: This study used data from the 2002-2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), an observational study of U.S. adults over age 50 (n  =  17,756). Sleep disturbance was measured via four items (assessing difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up too early as well as restedness) and pain via two items assessing the presence and degree of pain. Analyses consisted of path analysis; more specifically, random intercept cross-lagged panel modeling (RI-CLPM) was used to examine how pain and sleep disturbance predict one another over two-year intervals after accounting for the trait-like nature of both factors. RESULTS: There was evidence of reciprocal effects between sleep disturbance and pain across some, but not all, intervals. Moreover, the latent variables representing the trait-like nature of sleep disturbance and pain both showed significant variance (p  <  0.001), indicating stable differences between persons in sleep and pain. These trait-like characteristics were strongly associated (   =  0.51, p  <  0.001). The findings remained after adjusting the model for baseline age, self-reported health, partner status, depression, years of education, and sex. CONCLUSION: Sleep disturbance and pain are stable experiences. Moreover, there was some evidence that sleep disturbance and pain are bidirectionally linked across time among adults over 50, whereby across some intervals deviations in one's typical level of sleep disturbance predicted corresponding deviations in one's typical level of pain and vice versa. Clinically, this comorbidity and potential longitudinal bidirectionality underscore the importance of evidence-based interventions that target both sleep and pain among older individuals. Further studies should replicate these findings by collecting validated and/or objective sleep and pain measures on a more frequent basis.

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