Sleep deficiency tied to pain in health care workers: study

August 22, 2012

Boston – Lack of sleep may worsen musculoskeletal pain and functional limitations among health care workers, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health and Well-being.

Researchers surveyed 1,572 hospital patient care workers and found that sleep deficiency was associated with higher rates of pain – and the pain sometimes interfered with work. Of the respondents, 57 percent reported sleep deficiency, 73 percent reported pain in the past three months, 33 percent reported work interference from the pain, and 18 percent reported functional limitations, the study abstract stated.

The study did not conclude that lack of sleep causes pain, but in a NIOSH blog entry, the researchers said sleep deficiency may be caused by work and, conversely, pain and functional limitations may keep someone from getting enough sleep.

Researchers recommended workplace interventions such as including a sleep deficiency component in assessments; allowing flexibility on shift length and timing; and educating workers on the associations between sleep, musculoskeletal disorders and pain.

The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.