Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Fibromyalgia pain can be widespread and often flares up throughout the day. But even at night, fibromyalgia symptoms won't quit, robbing you of precious sleep.

Fibromyalgia is known for the chronic pain it causes in specific muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Patients also may feel discomfort at various other points on the body, especially the neck, back, shoulders, pelvis and hands.

In addition, sleep problems and its associated fatigue are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some patients repeatedly awaken during the night. Others get plenty of sleep, but still feel tired in the morning.

Some of the specific sleep disorders associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • Sleep apnea. Causes a patient's breathing to temporarily slow or stop while asleep. Pauses in breath occur up to 30 times an hour, and each may last for 10 to 20 seconds. Left untreated, sleep apnea can be life-threatening.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS). Causes nighttime muscle spasms in the legs. Patients describe it as unpleasant creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling or painful sensations.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Causes spasms similar to those of restless legs syndrome, but occurs only during nighttime sleep and often are more violent.
  • Bruxism. Persistent grinding of the teeth thought to result from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), a condition closely associated with fibromyalgia.

Source or symptom?
Why does fibromyalgia wreak havoc with sleep patterns? For years, scientists were unsure. Only recently did they suspect that sleep disturbances may actually cause some cases of fibromyalgia.

Patients with fibromyalgia may have a condition known as alpha wave interrupted sleep pattern. The condition (also called alpha EEG anomaly) causes the brain to suddenly become active during deep sleep, which prevents the patient from getting a full night's rest.

The sleep anomaly leaves patients tired. It also deprives them of one known treatment for fibromyalgia pain reduction: quality deep sleep.

Available treatments
Fibromyalgia and sleep problems often go hand in hand, but patients should not resign themselves to a life without rest. If you have fibromyalgia, you can take steps to improve the quality of your sleep. These include:

  • Go to bed and getting up at the same time every day
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol before bed
  • Avoid eating immediately before bed
  • Practice relaxation exercises while falling to sleep
  • Avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime
  • Maintain a sleep environment that has a comfortable temperature and is quiet, free from distractions such as television
  • Limit daytime napping

    National Institutes of Health studies have found that making such lifestyle changes may significantly reduce insomnia in patients with fibromyalgia.

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