Pain expectancy and positive affect mediate the day-to-day association between objectively measured sleep and pain severity among women with temporomandibular disorder

Published:November 24, 2021DOI:


      The majority of individuals with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) experience sleep disturbance, which can maintain and exacerbate chronic pain. However, the factors underlying the sleep-pain link have not been fully elucidated, especially beyond the laboratory. Sleep deprivation can induce threat interpretation bias, as well as impairment in positive affective functioning. Using both actigraphy and daily diaries, we examined whether morning pain expectancy and positive affect mediate the association between previous night's sleep disturbance and next-day overall pain severity. Total sleep time (TST) was selected as the primary measure of sleep. The sample included 144 women (mean age=36 [SD=11.1]) with TMD who displayed at least subclinical insomnia. Sleep was assessed for 14 days using actigraphy which was validated by concurrent sleep diaries. Daily diary assessments of pain-related experiences and affective states were conducted twice per day (i.e., once upon participants’ waking and the other prior to going to sleep) for the same 14-day period. Multilevel structural equation modeling revealed that both morning pain expectancy (95% CI: -.0004, -.00003) and positive affect (95% CI: -.0005, -.000001) mediated the association between previous night's TST and next-day's overall pain severity, such that shorter previous night TST was associated with higher next-morning pain expectancy and lower positive affect, which in turn were associated with a greater level of next-day's overall pain severity while controlling for morning pain severity. Reducing exaggerated daily pain expectancy and up-regulating positive affect may be important intervention targets for disengaging the sleep-pain link among individuals with co-occurring TMD and sleep disturbance.


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