Fibromyalgia is a condition suffered from 2 to 20% of the global population and, in some instances, the patient doesn’t even know they’re suffering from it. This is due to the fact that it doesn’t have physical symptoms as it is from the neurological origin. Many of its symptoms are directly related to sleep problems, and today we will talk about them and how to treat them. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about the main condition: Fibromyalgia itself.
Fibromyalgia has no known origin and it presents itself as generalized muscle pain throughout the body with some areas becoming hypersensitive, called ‘Tender points’. Until very recently, doctors treated their patients as if they imagined this pain because it has no physical symptoms to link them to another disease, but it started to be treated as a condition thanks to various studies that proved it to be neurological. The pain from Fibro presents itself mainly in the neck, shoulders, back, hip, arms, and legs
Main known symptoms of Fibromyalgia
1. Pain in the body: A constant and dull ache that has lasted for at least more than three months and it’s not linked to any source of physical trauma. It’s considered widespread when it presents itself on both sides of the body, above and below your waist.
2. Cognitive difficulties: Also called Fibro fog, it’s described as an impairing in the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on simple tasks.
3. Fatigue: People with this condition tend to awaken tired, even after sleeping for long periods of time. Pain access due to the fibromyalgia tends to disrupt the patients during their sleep and develop other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
The Sleep Problems
Now that we know the basics, let’s focus on the sleep problems. Along with the tiredness, pain, and psychosocial distress, sleep disturbances are a core feature of Fibro. Problem is, for people with this condition the combination of pain and sleep disturbance becomes co-dependent: the pain makes sleep harder, and sleep deprivation exacerbates pain. However, this means that treating sleep disturbance is usually followed by an improvement in pain symptoms, which highlights the importance of healthy sleep and finding a sleep.
Some symptoms and repercussions have to be taken into consideration when dealing with Fibro and sleep deprivation:
- Insomnia, an inability to fall or stay asleep, is very common in Fibromyalgia.
- People with Fibro show less deep sleep and lighter stages of sleep, accompanied with an excess of arousals during the night.
- Several studies on normal sleepers, disrupting their sleep nightly for 7 to 14 days with either noise or awakenings, resulted in symptoms indistinguishable from patients with fibromyalgia.
- The incidence of restless legs syndrome (a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an irresistible urge to move their legs) has been found to be in excess of 50% of people with Fibro.
- Sleep apnea (a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep) was found in 61% in men and 32% in women with fibromyalgia.
Treating insomnia with cognitive behavioral therapy and good sleep hygiene has been shown to improve symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some of the most common ways to treat the sleep deprivation symptoms are:
1. Medication: Fibromyalgia medicines usually target the pain that keeps you up at night, and some may help your sleep quality by easing the pain so you can get more and better sleep.
2. Exercise: Regular exercise like daytime workouts can improve nighttime sleep. Workouts in a pool and Tai Chi, which combines meditation with slow, gentle movements add up to better sleep quality, less pain, and lower stress.
3. Soothing Sounds: listening to music before bed can enhance sleep.