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Sleep and Pain in Pediatric Illness: A Conceptual Review

Journal title
CNS neuroscience & therapeutics
Publication year
Allen, J. M.; Graef, D. M.; Ehrentraut, J. H.; Tynes, B. L.; Crabtree, V. M.

BACKGROUND: Sleep disruption is a common comorbidity of pediatric pain. Consequences of pain and disrupted sleep, evidence for the pain-sleep relation, and how aspects of illness, treatment, and pharmacological pain management may contribute to or exacerbate these issues are presented. AIMS: This conceptual review explored the relation between pain and sleep in children diagnosed with chronic medical or developmental conditions. The goal of this review is to expand upon the literature by examining common themes in sleep disturbances associated with painful conditions across multiple pediatric illnesses. Populations reviewed include youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), migraines, cystic fibrosis (CF), sickle cell disease (SCD), cancer, juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), juvenile fibromyalgia (JFM), and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). RESULTS: Consistent evidence demonstrates that children with medical or developmental conditions are more vulnerable to experiencing pain and subjective sleep complaints than healthy peers. Objective sleep concerns are common but often under-studied. Evidence of the pain-sleep relationship exists, particularly in pediatric SCD, IDD, and JIA, with a dearth of studies directly examining this relation in pediatric cancer, JFM, CF, and FGIDs. Findings suggest that assessing and treating pain and sleep disruption is important when optimizing functional outcomes. CONCLUSION: It is essential that research further examine objective sleep, elucidate the pain-sleep relationship, consider physiological and psychosocial mechanisms of this relationship, and investigate nonpharmacological interventions aimed at improving pain and sleep in vulnerable pediatric populations.

Research abstracts