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People suffering chronic pain due to conditions such as arthritis could benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help them get better sleep.
This is according to a new study from the University of Warwick, which has demonstrated the impact that certain modes of thinking can have on sleeping habits among chronic pain patients, as well as highlighting ways this problem could be addressed.
The impact of negative thinking on sleep
Published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the research centred on the development of a new scale to measure beliefs about sleep and pain in long-term pain patients, while also examining their overall quality of sleep.
It was tested on four groups of patients suffering from long-term pain and bad sleeping patterns, revealing that individuals who had a strong belief that they would not be able to sleep as a result of their pain were more likely to suffer from insomnia - thereby making their pain worse.
Conditions such as back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis were all shown to be linked with negative thoughts about insomnia and pain, creating a vicious cycle in which sleep problems exacerbated pain levels, and vice-versa.
How CBT can help chronic pain sufferers sleep better
However, the flipside of this was that getting better sleep resulted in pain problems being significantly reduced. This was particularly evident among those who received a short course of CBT for both pain and insomnia.
CBT is a highly effective talking therapy that helps people to manage their problems by making them more actively aware of their own thoughts, helping them change negative patterns of behaviour and ultimately improving their day-to-day state of mind.
Dr Nicole Tang, the study's senior author, said: "Thoughts can have a direct and/or indirect impact on our emotion, behaviour and even physiology. The way how we think about sleep and its interaction with pain can influence the way how we cope with pain and manage sleeplessness.
"Based on clinical experience, whilst some of these beliefs are healthy and useful, others are rigid and misinformed."
Arthritis Research UK's view
Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: "We all know that a good night's sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good health and wellbeing, but it can be hard to achieve when you live in chronic pain.
"Our researchers at the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology at the University of Manchester are currently investigating the sleep patterns of people with rheumatoid arthritis and the impact poor sleep has on their daily lives. This insight will be used to develop more effective, personalised ways of tackling sleep problems in the hope that in future, people with rheumatoid arthritis will have a far better chance of a good night's sleep, boosting their quality of life."
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