The vicious cycle between fibromyalgia and sleep problems is well known: Fibromyalgia increases sleep problems, and poor sleep increases the risk of fibromyalgia. A new report in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders warns that poor sleep represents a significant and specific decrease in quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia, evidently more severe than that posed by sleep difficulties in other chronic illnesses, and perhaps independent of the symptoms of fibromyalgia itself.
The study involved 2,196 patients with fibromyalgia who participated in the 2009 National Health and Wellness Survey, an Internet-based survey in the US. Reviewers found that an overwhelming majority of people with fibromyalgia, 88%, confirmed they had some sleep problems. Nearly two-thirds of these people said they had more than one sleep problem, such as difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep. Overall, therefore, well more than half of fibromyalgia patients are struggling with serious sleep difficulties.
Those reporting sleep issues also showed a decrease in their quality of life, not only physical but mental as well. The quality of life issues were independent of pain, and were more severe than those reported by patients who had a variety of other chronic disorders including severe osteoarthritis, back pain, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The authors urge physicians to ask fibromyalgia patients about sleep issues and to respond aggressively, in that poor sleep seems to cause distress above and beyond the rheumatologic condition.