Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is thought to be the result of overactive nerves. It is a condition that results in chronic widespread pain and tenderness all over the body. So what exactly does that mean?“Chronic” means that the pain lasts a long time, at least 3 months. Many people experience fibromyalgia pain for years before being diagnosed.
“Widespread” means that it is all over the body. However, many people with fibromyalgia feel their pain in specific areas of their body, such as the lower back, neck, and shoulders.
“Tenderness” means that even a small amount of pressure can cause a lot of pain.
Who does fibromyalgia affect?
FMS affects more than 5 million people in the United States. That’s nearly 1 in every 60 Americans. Around 80-90% of those affected with FMS are women. These women are primarily between the ages of 35 and 55.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
In addition to constant pain, some of the other common symptoms of FMS are:
- Memory or cognitive problems, aka “fibro fog”
- Sleep troubles
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Painful menstrual cycles
- Numbness/tingling in hands, arms, feet and legs
- Sensitivity to temperatures, loud noises, or bright lights
Fibromyalgia and Sleep Issues
Research has shown that disordered sleep is a very prominent symptom in patients who have FMS. Around 75% of patients with FMS complain about their sleep. Studies show that treatment of sleep disturbances has had a positive effect on their FMS pain and symptoms during the day.
Even though sleep recording is not part of the routine evaluation, polysomnography may disclose primary sleep disorders in patients with FMS including insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
Fibromyalgia and Insomnia (pain and sleep)
Insomnia is defined as the inability to get enough sleep to feel rested. Lack of sleep produces more pain and increased pain contributes to lack of sleep. FMS pain can make it difficult to go to sleep at night, cause frequent awakenings from sleep during the night, or make a person wake earlier than planned without being able to return to sleep. In this regard, pain has both an effect on the quantity of sleep as well as the quality.
People experiencing pain are also much more sensitive to stress, which is another major perpetrator in sleep loss.
People in pain are also more likely to worry about getting enough sleep. They feel like they have less control over the amount and quality of sleep they get each night.
Fibromyalgia and sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
The incidence of sleep apnea in FMS patients was found to be 61% in men and 32% in women, according to a 2013 study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. A particular variant of sleep apnea called upper airway resistance syndrome is very common in women with fibromyalgia. Treating sleep-disordered breathing improves both pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia and Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them.
The incidence of restless leg syndrome has been found to be in excess of 50% of those with FMS, as opposed to 7% of the general population. FMS patients experience improvement in their symptoms of fatigue and sleepiness when restless leg syndrome is treated.
If you believe that you may be suffering from FMS and have sleep related issues, discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider or contact a sleep clinic for a sleep study.
At the Alaska Sleep Clinic, we help diagnose and treat hundreds of Alaskans every year with sleep disorders. Regular, quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of leading a healthy and happy life. Having an untreated sleep disorder such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea can not only hamper the quality of your daily life, it can worsen your FMS pain over time.
If you live in Alaska and want to receive a free sleep assessment from one of our certified sleep educators, click the link below and get on your way to sleeping restfully through the night.