Fibromyalgia Linked to Sleep Problems

Sleep mitigates risks of fibromyalgia in women

(RxWiki News) You toss and turn in the middle of the night. You wake up and can't fall back to sleep. As if that weren't bad enough, your sleeping problems may be putting you at risk for fibromyalgia.

Norwegian researchers have documented a connection between poor sleep and an increased risk of fibromyalgia, in women. The worse women slept, the more likely they were to develop the condition. The association was somewhat stronger in middle-aged and older women compared to younger women.

"Get treatment for your sleep problems, early."

Fibromyalgia affects more than 5 million people in the US, and is more common among women than men. It's a chronic syndrome in which a person experiences pain throughout their body, and tenderness in the joints, muscles, and tendons.

Sleep problems are common among women with fibromyalgia, but it's not known whether poor sleep contributes to the development of condition or if it stems from the condition itself. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology wanted to assess the risk of developing fibromyalgia among women who self-reported sleep problems.

Drs. Paul Mork and Tom Nilsen took their data from a long-term health study of 12,350 women in Norway. When they started the study, none of the women had fibromyalgia. The women answered a questionnaire about their health, self-reporting their pain and sleep trouble.

When it was time for follow up ten years later, 327 women, or 2.6 percent, had developed fibromyalgia. The women who often reported sleep problems had a greater risk of developing the condition than women who never had trouble with sleep; women over 45 were four and a half times more likely, and women between 20 and 44 were twice as likely. 

Although the association between sleep problems and fibromyalgia is clear, scientists still don't understand how sleep affects chronic pain. But the Norwegian researchers conclude that sleep problems make a person more susceptible to developing chronic widespread pain and also exacerbates it.

The researchers are interested in learning whether early detection and treatment of sleep problems can reduce the risk of developing fibromyalgia.

The study was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism in November 2011.

Review Date: 
November 11, 2011