Does Chronic Pain Affect a Spouse’s Sleep?

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Does Chronic Pain Affect a Spouse’s Sleep?

Without restful sleep, health of spouses of osteoarthritis patients may be at risk, reports PAIN®
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Does Chronic Pain Affect a Spouse’s Sleep?
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 9:00am

CONTENT: Press Release

Philadelphia, August 21, 2013 /3BL Media/ – Research suggests that a patient’s chronic pain affects a spouse’s emotional well-being and marital satisfaction. In a novel study of behavioral health outcomes published in the journal PAIN®, researchers examined the effects of patients’ daily knee osteoarthritis pain on their spouses’ nightly sleep. They determined that couples who expressed a high degree of closeness in their marriage experienced a stronger association between pain levels and the spouse’s ability to sleep restfully. Findings further illustrated that chronic pain may place the spouse’s health at risk and suggest an important therapeutic target for couples.

“Sleep is a critical health behavior, and individuals whose sleep is affected by their partner’s pain are at risk for physical and psychiatric problems,” says lead investigator Lynn M. Martire, PhD, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. “Spouses whose sleep is compromised may also be less able to respond empathically to patients’ symptoms and need for support.”

The research team chose to study knee pain because of the difficulty many patients experience in getting comfortable in bed and staying asleep. In addition, the resulting restlessness may disturb the patient’s partner. Investigators sought to test two hypotheses:

  • Greater osteoarthritis pain during the day would be associated with poorer sleep for the spouse that night
  • A couple’s degree of closeness affects the relationship between pain and sleep

The team collected data from 145 couples who recorded their levels of pain, sleep quality, and level of feeling rested or refreshed over 22 consecutive nights of sleep. Eligible participants were husbands or wives who had been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis by a physician, who experienced usual knee pain of moderate or great intensity, were at least 50 years old, and were married or in a long-term relationship in which they shared a residence with their partners.

Data analysis indicated:

  • Patients’ reports of sleep quality did not significantly correlate with their pain on the previous day, but they did relate to beginning-of-day reports of pain.
  • When patients reported greater knee pain at the end of the day, their spouses slept poorly that night and reported feeling less refreshed the following morning.
  • Spouses who reported symptoms of depression and negative moods upon awakening were more likely to experience poor sleep quality and less refreshing sleep.
  • In close relationships, the greater a patient’s pain, the less refreshing the sleep for the spouse.

“Compromised sleep caused by exposure to a loved one’s suffering may be one pathway to spousal caregivers’ increased risk for health problems, including cardiovascular disease,” concludes Dr. Martire. “In developing behavioral couple-oriented interventions for arthritis, it is important to identify the couples in which the spouse is most affected by patient suffering. Our findings suggest that assessing the extent to which partners are closely involved in each other’s lives would help to identify spouses who are especially at risk for being affected by patient symptoms and in need of strategies for maintaining their own health and well-being.”

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Notes for Editors
“The Impact of Daily Arthritis Pain on Spouse Sleep,” by Lynn Martire, PhD; Francis J. Keefe, PhD; Richard Schulz, PhD; Mary Ann Parris Stephens, PhD; Jacqueline a. Mogle, PhD (DOI: The article appears in PAIN, Volume 154, Issue 9 (September 2013) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the articles is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Terry Materese at +1 215 239 3196 or for copies. Journalists wishing to set up interviews with Dr. Martire should contact her directly at

About PAIN®
PAIN®, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP®), publishes 12 issues per year of original research on the nature, mechanisms, and treatment of pain. This peer-reviewed journal provides a forum for the dissemination of research in the basic and clinical sciences of multidisciplinary interest and is cited in Current Contents and MEDLINE. It continues to be ranked #1 out of the 29 journals in the Anesthesiology category according to the 2012 Journal Citation Reports, Thomson Reuters.

About the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP®)
IASP® is the world's largest multidisciplinary organization focused specifically on pain research and treatment. It is the leading professional forum for science, practice, and education in the field of pain, bringing together scientists, clinicians, health-care providers, and policymakers to stimulate and support the study of pain and to translate that knowledge into improved pain relief worldwide. Founded in 1973, IASP has nearly 8,000 members from 133 countries and in 90 chapters.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier’s online solutions include ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, Reaxys, ClinicalKey and Mosby’s Suite, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, helping research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group plc, a world leading provider of professional information solutions. The group employs more than 30,000 people, including more than 15,000 in North America. Reed Elsevier Group plc is owned equally by two parent companies, Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. Their shares are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RUK and ENL.

Media contact
Terry Materese
+1 215 239 3196 / +1 215 327 9934

Keywords: Research & Policy | Elsevier | International Association for the Study of Pain | Study | behavioral health | chronic pain | knee pain | osteoarthritis | pain | sleep behavior | spouse sleep

CONTENT: Press Release