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A potent link between pain and lousy sleep…regardless of your budget

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Stubbs et al. dove into data on both pain and severe sleep problems around the world, finding that they are “highly co-morbid.” That is, they go together: people who have sleep problems have pain, and people with pain have sleep problems. Duh? No one is going to be shocked by that, but this conclusion did not come from the usual suspects.

Science tends to focus on “subjects of convenience.” For instance, psychology studies are notorious for recruiting their subjects from the hungry university students they’re surrounded by: “Free pizza if you put up with a bit of zapping!”

But uni students are like a sub-species of human, and so what we “learn” about psychology from them is often not true of anyone else — a great example of why we take studies with a grain of salt.

Science also tends to focus on data of convenience, and so there was “a paucity of multinational population data” about pain and sleep deprivation. Stubbs et al. set out to fix that by using a lot of data from low- and middle-income countries, about almost a quarter million people — how’s that for a good sample size? And they found the same link that has been seen many times before in the more convenient and plentiful data from the richest countries, confirming that the link exists everywhere. And that what was not actually a given, however obvious it might seem.

There is a potent chemistry between sleep and health, and it is definitely not just a case of the “worried well” sweating the little stuff in our relatively comfortable lives. This data strongly suggests that the sleep-health link matters no matter who you are or where you’re from — it’s a basic feature of being human.

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