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What Disrupts Sleep When You Have Fibromyalgia?

Posted On August 20, 2014
August 20, 2014

Here’s a sobering and scary statistic. It is currently estimated that close to 6 million Americans have fibromyalgia. This condition is defined as chronic muscle, joint and tendon pain throughout a sufferer’s entire body. If overall body pain wasn’t bad enough, fibromyalgia also produces symptoms of fatigue, trigger points and many develop a sleep disorder.If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it is safe to assume that at some point in time, you felt as though your body has been run over by a Mack truck. Every muscle and joint in your body has ached and hurt, and your suffering may have lasted days, weeks and months. You just never got pain relief.  As a result, the chronic pain has evolved into restless and fitful sleep. Plain and simple, as a person with fibromyalgia, you have grown accustomed to having trouble sleeping. Is it the pain that prompts the difficulty sleeping or is something else entirely going on? Exactly what disrupts your sleep when you have fibromyalgia?

Sleep Disruption in Fibromyalgia

For people with fibromyalgia, there is a glitch in stages of sleep, which happen to be restorative. Instead of rest and repair of the brain and tissues throughout the body, fibromyalgia-affected individuals have brain arousals during these deepest sleep stages.

Over the years, research has uncovered that fibromyalgia causes an issue with the central nervous system, and actually to the point of hypersensitivity. When signals from various parts of the body are not properly handled due to the central nervous system problem, fibromyalgia does not get the message right. And hence, arousal instead of rest, which results in sleep disruption. Recently, the results of another study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism confirmed that brain signals are disrupted in fibromyalgia patients.

Another theory is that fibromyalgia patients produce more than normal amounts of brain chemicals such as dopamine during sleep. And of course, many experts believe that chronic pain incites sleep disturbances.

Sleep Disorder from A to Z

Whether in the category of trouble falling or staying asleep, insomnia  is a battle for those folks with fibromyalgia. As a result, many individuals also experience an increase in awakenings, and daytime sleepiness with accompanying fatigue. Not surprisingly the term, “fibro fog,” was coined to describe the bouts of poor concentration that plague people with fibromyalgia.

In addition, two other sleep disorders have been linked to fibromyalgia: obstructive sleep apnea  (OSA) and restless leg syndrome . OSA is a condition in which there is a partial or full obstruction of a person’s airway that prevents him or her from proper breathing during sleep. The OSA sufferer has pauses in breath lasting from seconds to minutes, and anywhere from five to over 30 times per hour. During sleep, with restless leg syndrome, individuals get the overwhelming urge to move their legs. This movement actually increases in intensity at rest. With the muscular factor, it is easy to understand the connection with fibromyalgia.

Better Sleep Is Possible

If you have fibromyalgia, it is possible to get better sleep. And believe it or not, better sleep also brings about a decrease in fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, fatigue and daytime sleepiness. How can this happen? Simply follow sound sleep hygiene practices such as:

  • Avoid a heavy and/or spicy meal for dinner. Eating a heavy and large meal toward the end of your day will put your stomach and intestines to work, which makes sleep more difficult. It is smart to avoid fatty foods that stress your digestive system, and acidic or spicy foods late in the day, which can instigate heartburn and upset stomach.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Caffeine remains in your system anywhere from 3 to 5 hours after consumption and causes your deep stages of sleep to be disrupted. And alcohol, while somewhat sedative, once the buzz goes away, the opposite can occur. Sleep can be restless with frequent instances of wakening.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at set times, and keep to this schedule even on the weekend.
  • Establish a relaxing, bedtime ritual. Whether you play meditative music, spritz sheets and pillowcases with lavender oil or take a bubble bath, winding down after a busy and hectic day can assist anyone in prompting a sound and restorative night of sleep.

If these lifestyle modifications do not seem to help, you can opt to ask your physician whether or not your fibromyalgia symptoms and sleep problems can be lessened with prescription medication such as muscle relaxers, pain relievers and antidepressants. All in all, if sleep can be improved, fibromyalgia symptoms will invariably decrease.

If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, trouble sleeping or suspect you might have sleep apnea,  please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537  to schedule a free  consultation .


About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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