By: 30 June 2017
Study links sleep patterns with pain persistence after pediatric surgery

About 20 per cent of children develop persistent pain after surgery, and a new study published in The Journal of Pain showed that poorer night-time sleep quality was significantly associated with greater next-day pain intensity over four months after surgery. The Journal of Pain is published by the American Pain Society.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital studied 66 children who had major surgery and examined the longitudinal sleep patterns over four months to assess the relationship between daily sleep and pain. They hypothesised that poorer night-time sleep quality would be associated with greater pain intensity.

In adults, the role of sleep disruption is considered a relevant predictor of acute as well as chronic post-surgical pain. However, perioperative daily sleep patterns have not been longitudinally assessed in children, and the role of sleep in persistence of children’s pain after surgery has not been explored.

Results of the study showed, on average, children’s sleep duration and quality returned to baseline four months following surgery. But at the individual level, significant temporal relationships were found between daily sleep and pain.

“Poor sleep quality predicted greater subsequent pain intensity the next day and our findings suggest that poor sleep quality may continue to influence the experience of post-surgical pain in children even four months after surgery,” said lead author Jennifer Rabbits, Department of Anesthesiology at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The authors concluded that improving sleep quality could be an important factor to reduce post-surgical pain and improve surgical recovery time in children.