They say sleep is for the weak, but as the results of a recent study get the look-over, it appears that the reality is the polar opposite. Erratic sleeping habits have now been tied to chronic pain in adults over the age of 50 - meaning that tossing and turning can leave its mark for longer than previously thought.

Over three years, researchers from the Keele University in Staffordshire, United Kingdom analyzed data from more than 4,300 adult participants, who, at the time of commencing study, had not experience any signs of chronic or widespread pain - though 2,764 participants did report more isolated aches. By the time the study ended, however, 19 percent of those surveyed relayed accounts of widespread, ongoing musculoskeletal pain. Among that 19 percent, participants who reported restless or interrupted sleeping patterns were found to be twice more likely to develop chronic pain than those who had comparatively consistent, restful sleep cycles.

"In this study, reporting musculoskeletal pain was common with just under half of participants reporting some pain and one quarter reporting widespread pain. Non-restorative sleep was the strongest predictor of new onset widespread pain," confirmed co-author, Dr. Ross Wilkie, in discussion with Reuters.

The report, entitled Predictors of new onset widespread pain in older adults: Results from the prospective population-based NorStOP study, was published in The American College of Rheumatology's academic journal Arthritis & Rheumatology. With an emphasis on the role of sleep, the study nevertheless looked primarily at the genesis and sustained patterns of the pain experienced by the participants, rather than examining the cause or context. As such, more research is necessary in order to determine the role of sleep - or lack thereof - in chronic pain and diseases such as fibromyalgia.

As perhaps the most prevalent cause of chronic pain, fibromyalgia afflicts more than 12 million people in America alone with chronic muscle soreness and soft tissue pains. Sleep disturbance has been noted as a symptom, and thanks to the most recent study, a prominent factor in continued pain. However, it hasn't yet been isolated as a cause of the disease.

The study also identified osteoarthritis as a contributing factor to newfound pain, and stressed the need for a more holistic approach to treating the condition. "While OA is linked to new onset of widespread pain, our findings also found that poor sleep, cognition, and physical and psychological health may increase pain risk," said Dr. John McBeth, the study's lead researcher. "Combined interventions that treat both site-specific and widespread pain are needed for older adults."

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