An estimated 1 out of every 50 Americans have to deal with the consistent pain and other problems that come from having Fibromyalgia according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine within the National Institutes of Health. The condition affects the musculoskeletal system including joints, muscles, tendons, and soft tissues, causing widespread pain without other origin. There is no known cause or cure for Fibromyalgia and it can result in many other problems including significant difficulties with sleep. People who have this condition must cope with the constant pain in order to accomplish even the smallest tasks within their everyday life.
What are the Symptoms?
Fibromyalgia’s primary symptom is mild to severe widespread pain experienced in specific tender points throughout the body. These specific tender points cause the pain to increase if they are touched and are found in 9-mirrored pairs in these locations on either side of the body:
- The back of the head
- In between the shoulder blades
- Top of the shoulders
- The front sides of the neck
- The upper chest
- Along the outer elbows
- Along the upper hips
- On the sides of the hips
- In the inner knee area
This pain can feel like a constant ache or a sharp, burning, or shooting pain. The pain does not present the same in each person; it may come and go over the course of a day, start out bad and improve as the day goes on, or persist all day and all night. One of the main complications of Fibromyalgia is a chronic sleep disturbance, which can exacerbate the pain and make coping more challenging. This lack of sleep also contributes to chronic daytime sleepiness.
The Pain -Sleep Connection
Although doctors and researchers have not yet been able to clarify the relationship between pain and the inability to sleep, the general consensus is that there is a complex link between the two. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can result in fibromyalgia-like symptoms and that improvement in sleep quality and duration can improve symptoms. This shows that there is a relationship that must be managed carefully to provide the most pain-free experience for those with the condition.
Another link between sleep and fibromyalgia is the frequent use of sleep aids by people who have this condition. Further research that helps to clarify and quantify the link between Fibromyalgia and sleep may open the door to new treatment options that are more effective than those available today. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there may also be a link between Fibromyalgia and Restless Leg Syndrome, a neurological-based sleep disorder. Sleep disordered breathing is also found in people with Fibromyalgia. Because of the strong link between sleep, pain, and management of the disease and the potential for people to have a sleep disorder in addition to the Fibromyalgia, treatment of the condition should include sleep monitoring and in many cases, sleep testing that is completed at a certified sleep center.
- Fibromyalgia and Sleep (sleep foundation.org)
- Sleep and Fibromyalgia (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Why Women Have Difficulty Sleeping (valleysleepcenter.com)