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Eur J Pain. 2010 Aug;14(7):752-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2009.11.007. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

Effects of pain management on sleep in preterm infants.

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  • 1Department of Nursing Science, Finnish Post-Graduate School in Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland.



This study was conducted to gain better understanding of the prolonged effects of pain and pain management on preterm infants' sleep.


The hypothesis was that the sleep structure in very preterm infants is different after painful procedures with pain management (facilitated tucking by parents (FTP), oral glucose, and oxycodone) than without pain management (oral water as placebo).


A prospective randomized placebo-controlled cross-over trial design was used. Thirteen-hour polysomnographic recordings were conducted when the study infants (n=18) were at a post-conceptional age of 28-32 weeks. During the recordings, the standardized nursing care periods were carried out with different forms of pain management administered at 3-h intervals. Sleep structure was analyzed before and after the interventions. The main hypothesis was analyzed using mixed models.


During the first post-intervention hour, the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep decreased after all interventions regardless of pain management (p<0.001). However, the oxycodone treatment further reduced the amount of REM sleep to 48.0% (SD 14.9) compared to other interventions: oral glucose to 64.4% (SD 12.8), (p<0.001); placebo to 62.9% (SD 16.1), (p<0.001); and FTP to 61.6% (SD 1.9), (p=0.004). In addition, sleep onset comprised non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep more frequently after oxycodone (50%) compared to placebo (6%, p=0.006), oral glucose (11%, p=0.019) or FTP (17%, p=0.056).


Pain management with oxycodone markedly altered the structure of the subsequent sleep period. This reduced amount of REM sleep may have consequences for brain development in preterm infants.

Copyright (c) 2009 European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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