The effect of sleep deprivation on pain perception in healthy subjects: a meta-analysis

Sleep Med. 2015 Nov;16(11):1313-1320. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.07.022. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Background: There is strong evidence indicating an interaction between sleep and pain. However, the size of this effect, as well as the clinical relevance, is unclear. Therefore, this meta-analysis was conducted to quantify the effect of sleep deprivation on pain perception.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted using the electronic databases PubMed, Cochrane, Psyndex, Psycinfo, and Scopus. By conducting a random-effect model, the pooled standardized mean differences (SMDs) of sleep deprivation on pain perception was calculated. Studies that investigated any kind of sleep deprivation in conjunction with a pain measurement were included. In cases of several pain measurements within a study, the average effect size of all measures was calculated.

Results: Five eligible studies (N = 190) for the between-group analysis and ten studies (N = 266) for the within-group analysis were identified. Sleep deprivation showed a medium effect in the between-group analysis (SMD = 0.62; CI95: 0.12, 1.12; z = 2.43; p = 0.015) and a large effect in the within-group analysis (SMD = 1.49; CI95: 0.82, 2.17; z = 4.35; p <0.0001). The test for heterogeneity was not significant in the between-group analysis (Q = 5.29; df = 4; p = 0.2584), but it was significant in the within-group analysis (Q = 53.49; df = 9; p <0.0001).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis confirms a medium effect (SMD = 0.62) of sleep deprivation on pain perception. As this meta-analysis is based on experimental studies in healthy subjects, the clinical relevance should be clarified.

Keywords: Meta-analysis; Pain perception; Reciprocal relation; Sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Healthy Volunteers / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Perception / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*