Sleep disorders and their association with laboratory pain sensitivity in temporomandibular joint disorder

Michael T. Smith, Emerson M. Wickwire, Edward G. Grace, Robert R. Edwards, Luis F. Buenaver, Stephen Peterson, Brendan Klick, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: We characterized sleep disorder rates in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and evaluated possible associations between sleep disorders and laboratory measures of pain sensitivity. Design: Research diagnostic examinations were conducted, followed by two consecutive overnight polysomnographic studies with morning and evening assessments of pain threshold. Setting: Orofacial pain clinic and inpatient sleep research facility participants: Fifty-three patients meeting research diagnostic criteria for myofascial TMD. Interventions: N/A Measurements and Results: We determined sleep disorder diagnostic rates and conducted algometric measures of pressure pain threshold on the masseter and forearm. Heat pain threshold was measured on the forearm; 75% met self-report criteria for sleep bruxism, but only 17% met PSG criteria for active sleep bruxism. Two or more sleep disorders were diagnosed in 43% of patients. Insomnia disorder (36%) and sleep apnea (28.4%) demonstrated the highest frequencies. Primary insomnia (PI) (26%) comprised the largest subcategory of insomnia. Even after controlling for multiple potential confounds, PI was associated with reduced mechanical and thermal pain thresholds at all sites (P < 0.05). Conversely, the respiratory disturbance index was associated with increased mechanical pain thresholds on the forearm (P < 0.05). Conclusions: High rates of PI and sleep apnea highlight the need to refer TMD patients complaining of sleep disturbance for polysomnographic evaluation. The association of PI and hyperalgesia at a non-orofacial site suggests that PI may be linked with central sensitivity and could play an etiologic role in idiopathic pain disorders. The association between sleep disordered breathing and hypoalgesia requires further study and may provide novel insight into the complex interactions between sleep and pain-regulatory processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-790
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009


  • Chronic pain
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Insomnia
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleep bruxism
  • Sleep disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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