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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Aug 2023 - 18 Aug 2023

Psychology, Review, Sex/Gender/Race

Human Studies, Neurobiology, Sex Differences


2023 Aug 07

Sleep Med Rev



The impact of sleep disturbance on pain perception: A systematic review examining the moderating effect of sex and age.


Rouhi S, Topcu J, Egorova-Brumley N, Jordan AS


Females have increased pain sensitivity and are more vulnerable to chronic pain conditions. Sleep disturbances are comorbid with chronic pain and exacerbate pain symptoms. Different types of sleep disturbance affect pain perception distinctly, but it is not clear if these effects are equal in men and women. This systematic review investigated potential differences in how sleep disturbance affects pain in males and females. We searched EBSCO, MEDLINE, Psych INFO, Science Direct, and Web of Science from January 2001 to November 2022 and found 38 studies with 978 participants. Separate random-effects models were used to estimate the pooled effect sizes based on standardized mean differences (SMDs) of experimental sleep disturbance paradigms on various pain outcomes. Sex moderated the effect of sleep disturbance on pain facilitation (SMD = 0.13; 95%CI: 0.004 to 0.022; p=.009) and pain inhibition (SMD = 0.033; 95%CI: 0.011 to 0.054; p=.005), with increased facilitation and decreased inhibition in females, but the opposite effect in males. Further, age moderated the effects of total sleep deprivation (SMD = -0.194; 95%CI -0.328 to -0.060; p=.008) on pain sensitivity and fragmented sleep (SMD = -0.110; 95%CI: 0.148 to -0.072; p<.001) on pain threshold. While the moderating effect of sex and age on the sleep-pain relationship was small, these factors need to be considered in future sleep-pain research.