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Pain Med. 2011 Jun;12(6):913-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01138.x. Epub 2011 May 31.

Subjective sleep quality and ethnicity are interactively related to standard and situation-specific measures of pain catastrophizing.

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Comprehensive Center for Pain Research, University of Florida College of Dentistry, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.



Sleep quality and ethnicity are related to a host of general health outcomes including the experience of pain, yet it remains unclear whether poor sleep quality and ethnicity might interactively affect pain catastrophizing and laboratory-evoked acute pain reports. The current study examined the cross-sectional associations of subjective sleep quality, ethnicity, and their interaction with pain catastrophizing and pain reports.


Healthy (N = 149), ethnically diverse (58% Caucasian American, 23% Asian American, 19% African American) young adults were subjected to a cold pressor task (CPT). Prior to CPT, participants completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and a standard version of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS). Following CPT, participants completed a situation-specific version of the PCS.


Adjusted analyses revealed a significant sleep quality by ethnicity interaction for standard catastrophizing reports. Particularly, African Americans with poor overall sleep quality reported the greatest level of catastrophizing on the standard PCS relative to their Caucasian American and Asian American counterparts. Furthermore, African Americans with poorer sleep efficiency reported greater catastrophizing on the situation-specific PCS compared with Caucasian American and Asian Americans. Catastrophizing was significantly correlated with pain reports.


These results suggest that African Americans with poorer sleep quality may be at greater risk for catastrophizing, a known contributor to more intense pain and increased pain-related emotional distress. Whether interventions that improve the sleep quality of ethnic minorities affect pain catastrophizing is in need of investigation.

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