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Study Links Sleep Problems to Pain and Depression among People with OA

Sleep ProblemsA new study published in “Arthritis Care and Research”, the journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) reports that sleep disturbances are directly linked to pain and depression, but not disability among patients suffering from osteoarthritis (OA). It was found that poor sleep increases depression and disability, but does not worsen pain over time.

Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States with osteoarthritis being the most common form of this disease. There is medical evidence that about 30 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, which increased healthcare costs by $186 billion during the period 1996-2005.

Earlier studies have reported the association between poor sleep quality and greater disability in patients with arthritis. Poor sleep quality is also a common complaint among people suffering from knee OA who have serious issues with initiating sleep and difficulty in maintaining sleep level. The primary objective of this new study was to explore the complex relationships among sleep, osteoarthritis-related pain, disability and depressed mood simultaneously.

The researchers studied more than 288 patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis who came from diverse settings. Based on the information they provided on sleep disturbances, knee pain, functional issues and other depressive symptoms, the team arrived at the following conclusions:

  • Sleep was independently related with pain and depression at baseline
  • There was no direct link between disability and baseline sleep disturbances
  • For individuals suffering from chronic pain, the combination of poor sleep and pain worsened depression
  • Sleep problems at baseline predicted higher depression and disability, but not pain at one-year follow-up

This study shows that depression is closely linked to sleep problems and pain, especially severe pain. The researchers hope that further study of the role of impaired sleep in exacerbating disability could result in new treatments for OA.

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