Nonpharmacological Treatments of Insomnia for Long-Term Painful Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Patient-Reported Outcomes in Randomized Controlled Trials

Sleep. 2015 Nov 1;38(11):1751-64. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5158.


Study objectives: Insomnia is a debilitating comorbidity of chronic pain. This study evaluated the effect of nonpharmacological sleep treatments on patient-reported sleep quality, pain, and well-being in people with long-term cancer and non-cancer (e.g., back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia) pain conditions.

Design: We systematically searched Cochrane CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and PsychINFO for relevant studies. Search period was set to inception of these databases to March 2014. Studies were included if they were: original randomized controlled trials (RCTs); testing a nonpharmacological intervention; that targets sleep; in adults; with painful health conditions; that has a control group; includes a measure of sleep quality; and at least one other health and well-being outcome.

Measurement and findings: Means and standard deviations of sleep quality, pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, physical and psychological functioning were extracted for the sleep treatment and control groups at baseline, posttreatment and final follow-up. Methodological details concerning the treatment, participants, and study design were abstracted to guide heterogeneity and subgroup analyses. Eleven RCTs involving 1,066 participants (mean age 45-61 years) met the criteria for the meta-analysis. There was no systematic evidence of publication bias. Nonpharmacological sleep treatments in chronic pain patients were associated with a large improvement in sleep quality (standardized mean difference = 0.78, 95% Confidence Interval [0.42, 1.13]; P < 0.001), small reduction in pain (0.18 [0, 0.36] P < 0.05), and moderate improvement in fatigue (0.38 [0.08, 0.69]; P < 0.01) at posttreatment. The effects on sleep quality and fatigue were maintained at follow-up (up to 1 year) when a moderate reduction in depression (0.31, [0.09, 0.53]; P < 0.01) was also observed. Both cancer and non-cancer pain patients benefited from nonpharmacological sleep treatments. Face-to-face treatments achieved better outcomes than those delivered over the phone/internet.

Conclusions: Although the body of evidence was small, nonpharmacological sleep interventions may represent a fruitful avenue for optimizing treatment outcomes in patients with chronic pain.

Registration: PROSPERO registration: CRD42013004131.

Keywords: chronic pain; health; insomnia; meta-analysis; nonpharmacological treatment; sleep; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain / complications*
  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Self Report*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome