Chronic pain and sleep problems frequently co-occur. Pain itself disturbs sleep, but other factors may also contribute to sleep problems in pain patients. This cross-sectional study of 473 patients (69.9% female, mean age 47 years) entering tertiary pain management compared normally sleeping pain patients with those having recurring sleep problems to determine the relationship between pain and sleep. Groups were compared for pain and pain aetiology, pain-related anxiety, childhood adversities, use of sleep and pain medications, self-reported diseases, and sleep disorders. Further, the association of pain-related anxiety (cognitive anxiety, escape/avoidance, fear, and physiological anxiety) with more disturbing sleep problems was investigated in the whole cohort. The main results were that those with sleep problems more often reported multiple health conditions than those sleeping normally (depression 31.6% vs 5.0%; angina pectoris 6.5% vs 0.0%; asthma 19.6% vs 1.7%; low back problems 55.1% vs 23.3%; joint disease other than rheumatoid arthritis 32.3% vs 18.3%). Accumulations of five or more childhood adversities were more often present in those with sleep problems. Restless legs symptoms were more common in those with sleep problems than those sleeping normally (33.2% vs 11.7%). Patients having sleep problems reported more use of sleep and pain medications than those sleeping normally. Findings about pain-related anxiety suggest physiological reactions as significant factors for increased sleep disturbances. These factors need to be addressed in the management of the comorbidity of pain and sleep problems and research to understand mechanisms in these is sorely needed.
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