Can sleep problems lead to musculoskeletal pain?


Associated with musculoskeletal pain in adults, poor sleep also could carry a similar risk for children.

Good sleep hygiene is an important part of overall health, and sleep problems can lead to a number of other challenges. Although poor sleep in adults has been tied to a higher risk of musculoskeletal pain, there hasn’t been a great deal of research into the effect of poor sleep in children. A new investigation in the European Journal of Pediatrics examines whether the association exists with children and whether it is modified by sex.1

Investigators used participants from the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study (CATS) for the study’s population. The cohort included schoolchildren from the metropolitan area of Melbourne, Australia. Parents were asked for consent. The children were aged 8 to 9 years at the study’s inception and they were followed up 1 year later.

The study included 1239 children. The links between sleep problems reported at the start of the study and musculoskeletal pain as well as persistent musculoskeletal pain, meaning pain lasting longer than 3 months, at follow-up were investigated with logistic regression. Overall the one-year incidence proportion for persistent musculoskeletal pain at follow-up was 7% and for musculoskeletal pain at follow-up, 43%. The investigators also found that sleep problems were linked to both persistent musculoskeletal pain onset and musculoskeletal pain onset in boys, but there was no such association seen with the female participants. The study’s limitations included that some of the musculoskeletal pain episodes reported could have been the result of an injury and that the data came from a study that was not specifically examining the connection.

The researchers concluded that boys who have sleep problems appear to be at higher risk of onset of musculoskeletal pain. They believe that inquiries into sleep health could reduce future musculoskeletal pain in children.


1.    Andreucci A, Campbell P, Mundy LK, Sawyer SM, Kosola S, Patton GC. Sleep problems increase the risk of musculoskeletal pain in boys but not girls: a prospective cohort study. Eur J Pediatr. May 12, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1007/s00431-020-03667-8

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