“Among people with arthritis, the prevalence of sleep disturbances was very high – about 23%, or more than 10 million Americans,” said Dr. Grant Louie, now at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland.
In people without arthritis, by comparison, the rate of sleep disturbances was only about 16 percent.
Dr. Louie headed up the study when he was still at the National Institutes of Health. He and his colleagues analyzed health data from 23,134 adults, age 18 or older, gathered in the large 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Participants provided information about a wide range of topics including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, exercise, weight, sleep, and chronic health problems.
Overall, nearly 20% said they’d been diagnosed with arthritis. Compared to people without arthritis, these people were almost three times more likely to report insomnia, daytime hypersomnia, or sleeping less than six hours (odds ratio 2.92).
Even after adjustment for such comorbidities as acid reflux, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, those with arthritis were still more likely to suffer from sleep problems compared to those without arthritis – although the connection wasn’t as strong as before (aOR 1.53).
Most of the sleeping problems were related to pain and joint mobility limitations, according to the authors’ October 1st online report in Arthritis Care and Research.
Most striking, Dr. Louie said, was the rate of sleep disturbances in arthritis patients who reported depression and anxiety in the past 12 months.
“Depression and anxiety were the most important factors identifying” which arthritis patients would have all three sleep disorders (insomnia, sleepiness during the day, and less than six hours of sleep), he said.
Arthritis patients with upper gastrointestinal problems were also particularly vulnerable to sleep problems, a fact with implications for how pain symptoms are treated, the researchers note.
They conclude that their study results reinforce the findings of previous research and underline the need to screen arthritis patients for sleep problems, “especially those reporting pain or with depression or anxiety,” and to treat them appropriately.