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Airing Pain 104: How Sleep And Chronic Pain Interact

More pain, less sleep; less sleep, more pain – The rela­tion­ship is a com­plex one, but what are the mech­a­nisms behind the link between sleep and pain?

This edi­tion of Air­ing Pain is fund­ed by the Con­stance Travis Char­i­ta­ble Trust and the Isabel­la Memo­r­i­al Trust.

Sleep can be a sanc­tu­ary from life; a way for the brain to decom­press and begin restora­tive process­es, but for those liv­ing with chron­ic pain, the pain/sleep cycle can become a vicious one.

In this edi­tion of Air­ing Pain, Paul speaks to clin­i­cal and health psy­chol­o­gist Dr Nico­la Tang about how polysomnog­ra­phy, a method of mea­sur­ing the bio­phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes that occur dur­ing sleep, can sug­gest aspects of brain func­tion­ing dur­ing sleep cycles.

Dr Tang explains how the deep­er stages of sleep, like Rapid Eye Move­ment, are linked to pain sen­sa­tion and emo­tion­al pro­cess­ing, and when you are deprived of these par­tic­u­lar stages of sleep there is evi­dence of increased lev­els of pain sensitivity.

Paul also speaks to Dr Sue Pea­cock, con­sul­tant health psy­chol­o­gist and author of Sleep­ing with Pain (2016), about how she found sleep to be one of the major issues among pain clin­ic patients and her non-phar­ma­co­log­i­cal approach­es. Dr Pea­cock dis­cuss­es how focus­ing on restruc­tur­ing sleep pat­terns result­ed in near­ly all patients hav­ing improved qual­i­ty of sleep.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: CBT: cog­ni­tive behav­iour­al ther­a­py, demen­tia, exer­cise, fam­i­ly and rela­tion­ships, fatigue, fibromyal­gia, habit, insom­nia, polysomnog­ra­phy, psy­cho­log­i­cal approach­es to pain man­age­ment, relax­ation, res­i­den­tial pain man­age­ment pro­grammes and worry.


  • Dr Nicole Tang, Clin­i­cal and Health Psy­chol­o­gist, Uni­ver­si­ty of War­wick, Char­tered Psy­chol­o­gist with the British Psy­cho­log­i­cal Society.
  • Dr Sue Pea­cock, Con­sul­tant Health Psy­chol­o­gist, Asso­ciate Fel­low of The British Psy­cho­log­i­cal Soci­ety and author of Sleep­ing with Pain: Strate­gies for a rest­ful night from a pain man­age­ment expert.

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