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Relationship of Sleep Deficiency to Perceived Pain and Functional Limitations in Hospital Patient Care Workers

Buxton, Orfeu M. PhD; Hopcia, Karen NP; Sembajwe, Grace ScD, MSc; Porter, James H. BS; Dennerlein, Jack T. PhD; Kenwood, Christopher MS; Stoddard, Anne M. ScD; Hashimoto, Dean MD; Sorensen, Glorian PhD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 7 - p 851–858
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31824e6913
Original Articles

Objective: Health care workers are at high risk of developing musculoskeletal symptoms and pain. This study tested the hypothesis that sleep deficiency is associated with pain, functional limitations, and physical limitations that interfere with work.

Methods: Hospital patient care workers completed a survey (79% response rate) including measures of health, sociodemographic, and workplace factors. Associations of sleep deficiency with pain, work interference due to this pain, and functional limitations were determined.

Results: Of 1572 respondents (90% women; mean age, 41 years), 57% reported sleep deficiency, 73% pain in last 3 months, 33% work interference, and 18% functional limitation. Sleep deficiency was associated with higher rates of pain, work interference, and functional limitation controlling for socioeconomic, individual, and workplace characteristics.

Conclusions: Sleep deficiency is significantly associated with pain, functional limitation, and workplace interference, suggesting modifiable outcomes for workplace health and safety interventions.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

From the Center for Work, Health, and Well-being (Drs Buxton, Sembajwe, Dennerlein, Stoddard, Hashimoto, and Sorensen, Ms Hopcia, Mr Porter, and Mr Kenwood), Department of Environmental Health (Drs Sembajwe, Dennerlein, and Hashimoto), and Department of Society, Health and Human Development (Dr Sorensen), Harvard School of Public Health; Department of Medicine (Drs Buxton and Hashimoto and Mr Porter), Brigham and Women's Hospital; Division of Sleep Medicine (Dr Buxton), Harvard Medical School; Partners Occupational Health Service (Ms Hopcia and Drs Sembajwe, Hashimoto, and Sorensen), Partners HealthCare System; Center for Community-Based Research (Dr Sorensen), Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; and New England Research Institutes (Mr Kenwood and Dr Stoddard), Watertown, Mass.

Address correspondence to: Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, 221 Longwood Ave, BLI438-K, Boston, MA 02115 (

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (U19 OH008861) for the Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health and Well-being. Dr Buxton was supported in part by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL107240).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety Health contributed to the development of the questionnaire but otherwise had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in the writing of this report.

There are no conflicts of interest to report, but in the interest of full disclosure, Dr Buxton received investigator-initiated research grants from Cephalon and Sepracor, has received unrestricted educational grants from Minimitter and Takeda (more than 4 years ago), served on the speaker's bureau for Takeda (3 years ago), and previously served as a consultant for Sepracor. Dr Buxton currently consults for Disnmore LLC (as an expert witness). All other authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

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©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine