Effects of sleep changes on pain-related health outcomes in the general population: A systematic review of longitudinal studies with exploratory meta-analysis

Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Jun:39:82-97. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Emerging longitudinal research has highlighted poor sleep as a risk factor of a range of adverse health outcomes, including disabling pain conditions. In establishing the causal role of sleep in pain, it remains to be clarified whether sleep deterioration over time is a driver of pain and whether sleep improvement can mitigate pain-related outcomes. A systematic literature search was performed using PubMed MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE, and Proquest PsycINFO, to identify 16 longitudinal studies involving 61,000 participants. The studies evaluated the effect of sleep changes (simulating sleep deterioration, sleep stability, and sleep improvement) on subsequent pain-related outcomes in the general population. A decline in sleep quality and sleep quantity was associated with a two- to three-fold increase in risk of developing a pain condition, small elevations in levels of inflammatory markers, and a decline in self-reported physical health status. An exploratory meta-analysis further revealed that deterioration in sleep was associated with worse self-reported physical functioning (medium effect size), whilst improvement in sleep was associated with better physical functioning (small effect size). The review consolidates evidence that changes in sleep are prospectively associated with pain-related outcomes and highlights the need for further longitudinal investigations on the long-term impact of sleep improvements.

Keywords: Health; Longitudinal; Meta-analysis; Pain; Prospective; Public health; Sleep; Systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Self Report
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*
  • Sleep*