By Nikola Weisman

Sleep and Worsening FM Symptoms

Researchers have found that more than 90% of FM patients struggle with sleep disturbances, which correlates with pain severity. According to an article on the relationship between sleep and FM posted by the Nature Reviews Rheumatology Journalthere are several correlations between poor sleep quality and worsening symptoms of fibromyalgia.

A statistical path analysis found that a night of disturbed sleep is associated with increased pain, worsened physical functioning, and mood disturbances.

In another study, poor sleep quality showed an increase in the effect of pain on fatigue. Subsequent research confirmed that sleep deprivation or disruption can cause increased pain severity and a decreased pain threshold. A UK population-based epidemiological study recruited more than 4,000 subjects older than 50 years old with nearly half reporting some pain at the baseline.

This study found that non restorative sleep was the strongest predictor of subsequent development of widespread pain. Sleep disturbance has been considered a feature symptom of fibromyalgia and a predetermination of severe pain and depression.

Sleep Disturbances in Fibromyalgia

Abnormal pain processing is an important factor of fibromyalgia and non-restorative sleep is a common clinical and diagnostic feature. Various studies have demonstrated patient’s with FM have reduced slow-wave sleep, (REM sleep), which is the most restorative sleep stage associated with sleep quality.

Knowing that sleep is vital for improved health and a reduction of pain, as well as other FM symptoms is important, but even knowing this  it still is not always easy to get the sleep you need.

Having sleep problems-Don’t Hesitate to Get a Sleep Study! (A primary care physician can refer you to a sleep specialist)

If you struggle with sleep, getting a sleep test will put you in the right direction to getting help, improving your sleep and other sleep-related symptoms. If you struggle with sleep, give it a try! When you feel rested, everything is better. There is help out there that can answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to go for it!

Nancy G. suggests…

“Get educated about realistically what happens during a sleep test and have your concerns addressed by a sleep specialists!!”

Lynne Matallana, Founder/ President of the NFA participated in a sleep study herself and states…

“Many health-care professionals believe that if you improve your quantity and quality of sleep, you will reduce other FM symptoms. It is, for this reason, it is extremely important that you address any sleep issues you might have with a medical sleep expert.”

Three Signs That Let You Know it’s Time to Get A Sleep Study

  1. Not waking up feeling rested
  2. Having difficulty concentrating on daily tasks
  3. Snoring and waking up gasping for air

What is a Sleep Study Experience Like?

Sleep Study

A sleep test is conducted at an overnight sleep center usually in a room that feels like a bedroom or hotel. Sensors are placed on your scalp, temples, chest, legs, finger, and/or ear, but you don’t feel anything and it does NOT hurt. Computers monitor brain waves, eye movements, heart rate, breathing patterns, and oxygen levels all while you sleep. Another option is to complete an at home sleep test. Pick up a portable monitor at a local sleep center and put on the sensors in the comfort of your own home.

Note: Strongly consider going to a sleep center because at home tests only pick up very severe cases of sleep apnea and there are several benefits to having a technician present because they can actually see what’s happening, rather than just seeing what the data suggests is occurring.

Sabrina J. spoke highly about her sleep study…

“In the long run, the benefits of going through a sleep study and having someone being able to see you and tell you what is going on far outweighs the fear of someone watching you sleep.”

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is defined as the repeated stopping and starting of one’s breathing while sleeping. According to Reena Mehra, MD sleep specialist and director of sleep disorders research at Cleveland Clinic, “when people think of sleep apnea, they picture an obese male who snores, but these stereotypes fall apart with age.” You are not alone, you are not stuck, sleep apnea is common.

Twelve million people in the US, most of whom are not diagnosed, are believed to have sleep apnea. A study following 10,000 people who did sleep studies found that nearly 80% had sleep apnea. Pay attention to the following signs of sleep apnea as described by, Eric Olson, MD a sleep specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn:

  • Snoring and waking up gasping for air
  • Not waking up feeling rested
  • Morning headache that dissipates after movement
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggle to get blood pressure under control
Licensed clinical social worker and certified life coach, Nancy G. emphasizes…
“If there is an issue about whether or not someone has sleep apnea, it must be addressed and treated, if it is not, you won’t get very far with any other sleep remedies.”

There are serious health effects that can occur with poor sleep habits. Untreated sleep apnea can result in:

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver problems
  • Possible dementia
  • Older adults are 2x more susceptible to death due to sleep apnea

Four Action Oriented Goals for Improving Sleep

  1. Make an effort to lose weight
  2. Avoid alcohol before bed
  3. Quit smoking
  4. Stop using screens 1 hour before going to bed

NFA founder Lynne Matallana recommends…

“To improve overall general sleep hygiene, whether you have FM or not, I and other people have found getting all distractions out of your room, television set, computer, and phone to be helpful.”

Lynne also found white noise to be an excellent tool for improving sleep. You can ask Alexa to play ambient noise or use a relaxation app on your phone.

Mike H, an individual with sleep apnea, has been using a CPAP machine for 20 years and says…

“It definitely helped, it was immediate, within a few days of getting used to it, and now I can’t sleep without it.”

If you struggle with excessive night snoring, follow these suggestions to improve sleep:

  • Lose weight
  • Sleep on your side
  • Elevate your head
  • Use an OTC nasal strip
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature and dark

In Summery

It is very important for the fibromyalgia patient to pay close attention to their seep hygiene. If you take it seriously you will feel much better for it. For more information on sleep you can go to: