Opioids, Pain, and Sleep: How Do They Interact With Each Other?


A recent study of patients with chronic low back pain sheds light on the association between sleep and opioid use on pain severity and interference.

Many patients with chronic pain report that it interferes with their sleep and that this can interfere with their ability to function. Because opioids are sedating there is a widespread view that they should be beneficial for sleep in patients taking them for chronic pain. A recent study sought to examine the relationship between sleep disturbance, functioning, and opioid use in patients with chronic low back pain (≥ 3 months’ duration).

The study had 213 participants; none had comorbid physical or mental conditions or was a long-term user of opioids. Outcome measures were obtained from the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System short form, which includes questions about pain, sleep, functioning, depression, anxiety, pain interference with activities, and fatigue. The slides below offer an at-a-glance review of the study's findings.


1. Wilson JM, Yoon J, Schreiber KL, Edwards RR, Sieberg CB, Meints SM. Interactive effects of sleep disturbance and opioid use on pain-related interference and physical functioning among patients with chronic low back pain. Pain Med. Published online July 19, 2023. doi:10.1093/pm/pnad101

2. Rosen IM, Aurora RN, Kirsch DB, et al. Chronic opioid therapy and sleep: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(11):1671-1673.

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