Two studies presented on June 15 in Amsterdam at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology focus on sleep and chronic pain.

In the first study, a 20-year prospective study, researchers found that sleep problems predict chronic, widespread pain. Difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep, waking up early in the morning, non-restorative sleep, and fatigue predicted the onset of chronic pain, Katarina Aili, of Sweden’s Spenshult Research and Development Center, and colleagues found.

“Our results demonstrate that sleep problems are an important predictor for chronic pain
prognosis and highlight the importance of the assessment of sleep quality in the clinics,”
Aili said in a EULAR news release.

The second study, which centered on 254 Swedish students (who were about 16-years-old, on average), found that one in 10 students suffered from chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain. When Julia Malmborg, a doctoral candidate at Sweden’s Rydberg Laboratory for Applied Sciences, and colleagues analyzed that pain, they found that those students with the pain were likelier to have both problems sleeping and anxiety.

“Although the relationship between sleep and pain is complex, our results clearly indicate a
strong association which needs to be explored further,” Malmborg said in the release. “As both
problems affect the physiological and psychological well-being of sufferers, we hope that these
results will be used by school health professionals to promote student health.”

The students with the pain were nearly 2.5 times likelier than their peers to have sleep problems and more than 3 times likelier than their peers to suffer from anxiety, the researchers found.