Sleep and Pain in Sickle Cell Disease

  • End date
    Jan 31, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Johns Hopkins University
Updated on 15 June 2022
chronic pain
behavioral symptoms
sleep problem


This is a study testing the effects of behavioral sleep interventions on pain and brain function in sickle cell disease.


The investigators propose to examine whether changes in sleep alter pain and pain-related outcomes in adults with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). As many as 70% of adults with SCD experience various sleep disturbances. Pain and sleep are inter-related, such that pain disturbs sleep and disturbed sleep amplifies pain and increases risk for developing chronic pain. Pain processing occurs in the central nervous system, where nociceptive input can be inhibited or facilitated and which can undergo both functional and structural plasticity. When plasticity results in amplification of pain, this central sensitization (CS) manifests as hyperalgesia, allodynia, and spreading of pain and is an important treatment target in its own right. A growing literature implicates central sensitization in SCD, and the investigators find a strong association between laboratory-evoked CS and sleep disturbance in SCD. The neural substrates involved in pain modulation are often disrupted in chronic pain, likely due to the demands pain places on cognitive resources, and similar effects are seen with chronic insomnia. It remains unclear whether these changes occur in SCD and if improving sleep improves central modulation of pain. The potential for improved sleep to reduce pain and CS requires additional investigation, particularly given the significance of sleep disturbance as a mutable risk factor. The investigators will conduct a randomized trial in which it will be determined whether improvements in sleep reduce pain and alter brain processing of pain and cognitive stimuli. The aims are to determine whether treatment of sleep improves pain outcomes in SCD and to determine whether treatment of sleep alters functional connectivity of cognitive and pain modulatory networks using brain imaging in SCD.

Condition Sickle Cell Disease, Sleep Disturbance, Pain
Treatment Behavioral symptom management, Sickle cell disease management
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03150433
SponsorJohns Hopkins University
Last Modified on15 June 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Diagnosis of sickle cell hemoglobinopathy (Homozygous sickle cell disease, Hemoglobin SC disease, or Sickle/beta-thalassemia)
Adequate facility with English
Stable dosing of medications (if taking) for pain and sleep
Reports symptoms of insomnia
Reports chronic pain

Exclusion Criteria

Cognitive impairment
Unstable psychiatric disorder
Seizure disorder
Positive pregnancy or drug test
Clear my responses

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