Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Fibromyalgia is a disorder which causes widespread pain and stiffness of the muscles and joints, as well as problems with fatigue, sleep, memory and mood. It can also cause tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety and depression.

Although anyone can be affected by fibromyalgia, up to 90 percent of the people diagnosed with the condition are middle-aged women. In the past, the disorder has been misunderstood and confusing. Many who sought treatment for fibromyalgia were told it was “all in their head”, the symptoms not representing any known disease. However, after various medical studies, fibromyalgia is now recognized as a real condition which affects between 2 and 6 percent of people globally.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but there are several factors which may contribute to the development of the disorder. It may be the result of repetitive stress injuries, car accidents, or other traumatic events. While it does run in families, it is not yet known whether it is genetic or environmental. People with arthritis are more likely to have fibromyalgia, but fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

The range of symptoms for fibromyalgia is broad, including some combination of the following:

  • Extensive, widespread pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Cognitive or memory problems
  • Morning stiffness in joints or muscles
  • Migraine headaches
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Painful menstruation
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Mood disorders

Fibromyalgia and Sleep Disorders

The relationship between fibromyalgia and sleep disorders is cyclical in nature. As lack of sleep worsens the disorder, the pain, in turn, makes it even more difficult to sleep. Fortunately, treating the sleep disturbances usually leads to improvement of fibromyalgia symptoms. Those suffering from fibromyalgia should seek treatment from a specialist so they can improve their sleep, as well as their pain symptoms.

Research has shown that the association between sleep disturbance and pain are intricately linked. For example, post-surgery patients experiencing pain have symptoms of disturbed sleep and reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. As these post-op patients recover, their sleep begins to normalize. One study showed that by depriving middle-aged women of sleep for a period of three days, they showed decreased pain tolerance and higher levels of discomfort and fatigue. This research suggests that sleep disruption may be part of the reason why fibromyalgia develops.

Fibromyalgia, Sleep Disorders and Treatment

Although sleep aid medications are widely used by fibromyalgia patients, their long-term effectiveness has not been proven for treating pain. Further research is still needed to develop effective treatments which take into account the complex relationship between pain and sleep. Future treatment methods will seek to improve both pain symptoms and sleep disturbances.

Coping with Fibromyalgia and Sleep Disorders

Fibromyalgia is a persistent condition and currently there is no known cure. The symptoms tend to fluctuate between tolerable and more severe. Here are some tips for coping with fibromyalgia and preventing the worsening of pain symptoms:

  • Make sleep a priority - A regular sleep schedule can help alleviate painful symptoms.
  • Create a quiet environment - Stressful sounds can intensify pain.
  • Exercise - Low impact exercise which are less stressful on joints, such as walking, yoga or swimming, can help improve symptoms for some patients as well as improve sleep quality.
  • Medication - A physician can help implement a medication regimen to treat your symptoms.

If you are interested in finding out more about Fibromyalgia and its affect on sleep disorders, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions.