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Approved research

Chronic Pain in Shiftworkers: the Role of Sleep, Circadian Rhythms and the Autonomic Nervous System

Principal Investigator: Dr Kun Hu
Approved Research ID: 40556
Approval date: September 28th 2018

Lay summary

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer, or is more severe than expected, deeply impacts not only those affected, but also family, friends and caregivers. Unfortunately, this is a common problem but effective treatments are few and far between. Understanding who is at risk so we can help minimise suffering becomes vital. We know that pain has both physical and psychological parts to it. The body has a natural 'clock' that cycles over roughly 24 hours, controlling vital functions that we are not even aware of (for example the autonomic nervous system). If this clock is disrupted, there is also both physical and psychological consequences. This project will look at the relationship between disruptions to the clock (as happens during shiftwork) and the development of chronic pain. We will also see if sleep disruption and the autonomic nervous system affects this relationship . We have also developed techniques that can examine heart rate tracings to reveal more information than just how fast the heart is going which we will test to see if they predict your likelihood to developing chronic pain. The public health impact is understanding who and how people develop such a debilitating disease - this may guide us to finding news ways to prevent or treat chronic pain.