Sleep Struggles: Poor Sleep Quality Linked to Diminished Life Quality in Systemic Sclerosis Patients

A new study has uncovered widespread sleep issues among individuals living with systemic sclerosis (SSc), an autoimmune disorder characterized by hardening of the skin. The research found that an alarming 84% of SSc patients experienced poor sleep quality, while one in five struggled with excessive daytime sleepiness. 

The cross-sectional study, conducted at a university hospital in Brazil, evaluated sleep patterns, quality of life, and disability levels in 50 SSc patients using standardized questionnaires. The findings revealed significant negative impacts due to disordered sleep. Poor sleep quality correlated strongly with reduced quality of life scores, both for physical and mental health components. There was also a clear link between worse sleep and greater disability. 

The scleroderma health assessment questionnaire scores, which measure functional disability, were substantially higher among those experiencing poor sleep quality compared to sound sleepers. While the reasons for the high prevalence of sleep disturbances were not explored, the disease’s wide-ranging effects may play a role. Scleroderma can involve many organs and cause symptoms like pain, reflux, and breathing issues that could certainly disrupt sleep. Despite the heavy burden of sleep problems revealed, the researchers emphasized that interventions may help. Simple measures like sleep hygiene counseling, managing pain and reflux, and adjusting medications could potentially improve sleep for some patients. More severe cases may require evaluation by a sleep specialist. 

 A cross-sectional study by Wongthawa et al., involving 88 SSc patients, found that about half of the participants reported poor sleep quality. The study identified significant associations between poor sleep quality and the presence of digital ulcers and dyspepsia. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores positively correlated with overall pain, as assessed by the Visual Analog Scale. Early assessment and treatment of digital ulcers, gastrointestinal symptoms, and pain management may help alleviate sleep problems in SSc patients. 

The present study demonstrates that poor sleep quality is a common and serious problem for patients with SSc significantly affecting their quality of life and degree of disability. By recognizing and addressing sleep disturbances, healthcare providers can offer more comprehensive and effective care for individuals suffering from this chronic condition. 


  1. Santos G da S, Barros MF, Matta DN da, Tenório A da S, Gonçalves RSG, Duarte ALBP, et al. Quality of sleep in individuals with systemic sclerosis and its correlation with functional disability and quality of life: a cross-sectional study. Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2024;70(4):e20231254.  
  1. Wongthawa N, So-Gnern A, Mahakkanukrauh A, Suwannaroj S, Foocharoen C. Sleep quality and clinical association with sleep disturbance in systemic sclerosis. BMC Rheumatol. 2023 Jul 21;7(1):21.