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Sleep Disturbances Aggravate PTSS and Chronic Pain Among Youth

February 14, 2018
Study shows sleep interventions for those under age 17 could be target of further examination

A PPM Brief

When children are exposed to traumatic events, their youth and naiveté may result in difficulties reacting to and managing post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). The symptoms may be further complicated in youth living with chronic pain conditions, as the relationship between PTSS and chronic pain in this population has been linked to poor sleep, anxiety, and an overall unhealthy life that follows into adulthood.1

While the types of distressing and traumatic events among youth does not differ largely among those with or without chronic pain, youth with chronic pain have been found to have higher rates of clinically elevated PTSS (32%), as compared to those without chronic pain (8%). Among youth with chronic pain, individuals who had higher PTSS had worse pain outcomes and quality of life.2

A study in the Journal of Pain1 examined how sleep plays a role in the relationship between PTSS and pain in youth, aged 10-17 years, with chronic pain. Ninety-seven participants completed measures of PTSS, pain, anxiety symptoms, and sleep quality, in addition to demographic characteristics. Higher levels of PTSS were linked to higher levels of pain intensity and pain interference, and these relationships were partially explained by poor sleep quality.1

“Given emerging evidence documenting the high prevalence of clinically elevated PTSS among youth with chronic pain, which are linked to worse pain and quality of life in this already vulnerable group of youth, this research is particularly timely,” study authors wrote.

Results from the study revealed that, beyond the influence of demographics and anxiety symptoms, sleep quality partially mediated the relationships between PTSS and pain intensity/interference for youth with chronic pain. The potential of sleep in explaining the co-occurrence of chronic pain and PTSS suggests that it might be an important target for future interventions. These interventions may help pain and comorbid mental health problems from persisting into adulthood.1

“Similar work in youth with co-occurring pain and PTSS, in addition to examinations of other mechanisms underlying this co-occurrence, are needed,” the authors concluded.

Last updated on: February 20, 2018
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