Does chronic pain impact sleep?

Researchers plan to find out


Marian Wilson

— Washington State University will lead a study to understand the relationship between sleep and chronic pain.

It’s all part of a nationwide effort to address the rising abuse of opioid pain relievers and expand the arsenal of non-drug treatment options.

“Physicians are being pressured to stop prescribing so many opioids,” Washington State University College of Nursing assistant professor and lead investigator Marian Wilson said.

New prescription guidelines issued this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend providers limit the use of opioids in patients with chronic pain, she said.

“It’s not fair to start cutting longtime opioid users off their medications without giving them some effective alternatives,” she said.

The relationship between sleep and pain has not been adequately studied, she said:

“There’s a small body of literature that suggests that pain and sleep correlate – bad sleep goes with bad pain – but we don’t know for sure which comes first,” Wilson said.

Wilson has joined with colleagues at WSU Health Sciences Spokane and the University of Washington’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine on a study funded with a new two-year, $305,651 supplemental grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant allows Wilson to run the study as a subproject of a larger institute’s funded project led by pain experts Mark Jensen, a University of Washington professor, and Rhonda Williams, an associate professor and psychologist with the U.S. Veterans Administration - Puget Sound Healthcare System.

Sleep expertise will be contributed by Wilson’s co-investigator Hans Van Dongen, professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center.

The parent University of Washington study evaluates the efficacy of self-hypnosis and mindfulness meditation training interventions to treat chronic pain in 240 military veterans.


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