The Link between Sleep and Fibromyalgia

By Rebecca Jones

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious and misunderstood illness but for those living with chronic pain and fatigue its effects are all too real. While the causes of fibromyalgia are still unclear doctors believe that a good night’s sleep can help alleviate pain for sufferers.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by long term wide spread pain and soreness and is commonly linked to fatigue, depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping. While doctors have been unable to find a cause for the syndrome they believe that it can be triggered by physical or emotional trauma, sleep disruptance or an unusual response to pain in the brain.

Almost all patients with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep problems, depression and fatigue but symptoms can also include IBS, trouble concentrating or retaining information, palpitations and numbness and tingling in the extremities.

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia but doctors have had some success alleviating symptoms. Often time’s physical therapy and an exercise regimen can relieve joint pain while therapy or antidepressants can relieve depression and anxiety but the latest research reveals that focusing on sleep disturbances may have the biggest impact of all.

People who suffer from fibromyalgia tend to toss and turn at night because of their joint and muscle pain, because of this they wake up tired in the morning no matter how long they spend in bed at night. Because of the constant sleep disruption the body is unable to enjoy the restorative benefits of sleep. Growth hormone is produced mainly while we sleep at night when this hormone can’t do its job muscles are unable to heal and neurotransmitters like serotonin are unable to regenerate. When the body is not refreshed it can’t recover from stress which can create a heightened sensitivity to pain. The latest research shows that if deep sleep can be restored in sufferers their pain can be greatly reduced.

While medication may be necessary to restore deep sleep doctors also recommend some simple lifestyle changes.

  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed
  • Try stretching or meditating before bed to relieve stress
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings
  • Invest in a white noise machine or keep the room as quiet as possible
  • Listen to soft music

If lifestyles changes don’t help in restoring sleep doctors can also recommend different types of therapy including behavioral therapy and stress reduction. The more patients are able to keep their stress under control the easier time they will have with their symptoms. While there is no simple solution to treating fibromyalgia doctors have had the best results with a combination of exercise, stress reduction, cognitive behavior therapy and medication.