Sleep, Chronic Pain, & PTSD in Children: What’s the Link?

According to the National Center of PTSD, up to 43% of boys and girls go through at least one traumatic experience. Of those that went through trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some traumatic events can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and neglect. These events could also include witnessing violence or living through a natural disaster.  

The severity of PTSD symptoms in children vary depending on a variety of factors. Some of the main factors include: 1) how severe the traumatic event was, 2) how the parents reacted to the event, and 3) how close or far removed the child was to the event.

While it was known that PTSD and chronic pain co-occur at high rates among the youth, doctors didn’t know why this happens. A recent study published in the Journal of Pain sheds some light on how sleep may be one of the underlying reasons for this co-occurrence.

Sleep Partially Mediates Association Between Chronic Pain & PTSD in Children

The mentioned study sought to test the hypothesis that poor sleep quality mediates the association between PTSD and pain intensity. During the study, 97 participants with chronic pain (ages 10-17) completed measures of PTSD, pain intensity, sleep quality, and other details.

Findings revealed that the relationship between chronic pain and PTSD was partially explained by poor sleep quality. In fact, sleep disturbance was a main factor driving this relationship.  Additionally, the study found that the participants who had higher levels of PTSD also had higher levels of pain intensity. Therefore, this study suggests that impaired sleep quality is more than just a secondary symptom of PTSD. Rather, poor sleep can make PTSD and pain worse.

Furthermore, the results of the study suggest sleep may be a key factor that can be targeted and modified to help ease and treat PTSD and chronic pain symptoms in children and adolescents.

Author
Apex Medical Center

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