Familial Contributions to Self-Reported Sleep and Pain in Female Twins

Objective: The relationship between sleep quality and pain has been studied in populations with chronic pain and in nonclinical populations using experimental paradigms. Little is known about the familial contributions to this relationship. This study examines self-reported sleep quality and pain in a nonclinical sample and to explore familial (i.e., shared genetic and common family environment) confounding in those relationships.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Subjects: Ninety nine community-based female twin pairs (N = 198) with a mean age of 29 years; 72% monozygotic.

Methods: The short form McGill Pain Questionnaire (McGill), a visual analog scale (VAS), a body map, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) measured self-reported pain and sleep quality. Mixed model regression adjusted for age was used to examine relationships between the pain indices and PSQI in overall and within-pair models.

Results: Higher PSQI total scores were significantly associated with higher scores across the McGill sensory (B = 0.37, p < 0.001), affective (B = 0.16, p < 0.001), total scores (B = 0.54, p < 0.001), the VAS (B = 2.41, p < 0.001), and number of sites with any pain on the body map (B = 0.42, p = 0.001). All of these associations were diminished and rendered nonsignificant in within-pair analyses that accounted for genetic and familial factors (all p’s ≥ 0.01; Bonferroni α = 0.01).

Conclusions: These findings support an association between poor sleep quality and pain and suggest that this relationship may be confounded by shared genetic and environmental factors, which could elucidate biological mechanisms that underlie the development and maintenance of pain and sleep problems.

Godfrey KM, Strachan E, Mostoufi S, Poeschla B, Succop A, Afari N. Familial Contributions to Self-Reported Sleep and Pain in Female Twins. Pain Med. 2016 Jan;17(1):33-9. PMC4753149.