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Alaska Sleep Education Center

Sleep Apnea in Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Growing Concern

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Oct 4, 2018 12:56:00 PM

Fibromyalgia causes muscle pain making it difficult to sleep which then cyclically creates exacerbated pain causing lack of sleep. Once symptoms can be identified and controlled more successfully, sleep improves while pain lessens.

The trick is to find the right balance to improve both with a physician.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.” fibro1

Many people who have fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, there is not a magic bullet to curing fibromyalgia, but it can interfere longterm with your ability to function at home or at work.

Each symptom causes restless nights increasing the symptoms.

FMS affects more than 5 million people in the United States. Around 80-90% of those affected are women primarily between the ages of 35 and 55.

Rheumatology International published a study in 2015 on obesity, sleepiness, and fibromyalgia in women. The results of the study demonstrated sleepiness in women with FMS were at a higher risk of obesity and were statistically more prevalent with sleepy women. Symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested
  • headaches
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • inability to focus or difficulty paying attention
  • pain or dull aching in the lower abdomen

Fibromyalgia is often associated with areas of tenderness, which are called trigger points or tender points. According to Healthline, “the pain caused by these trigger points can also be described as a consistent dull ache affecting many areas of your body.” Consistent pain for three months without any other diagnosis may lead a physician to believe it is FMS.

Symptoms may be a result of the brain and nerves misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Good nutrition can be a hindrance in people with FMS either experiencing a lack of appetite or severity of symptoms that causes pain to move and cook well-balanced meals. Buying food online for grocery delivery or quick pick up or asking for a local service to prepare meals may curve the issue when physical pain hinders your abilities. Fast food or pizza delivery would not be consistent healthy choices so make certain they meet your doctor's prescribed health plan.

Stimulants like MSG, artificial food coloring, corn syrup, fructose, saccharin, and sweeteners may also trigger restless nights or fibromyalgia occurrences. Cutting these foods out of your diet may reduce anxiety or mood swings common with fibromyalgia patients who experience depression.  fibro2

A large amount of FMS patients also experience food sensitivities or food allergies. By visiting your primary care physician or allergist, tests can help prevent negative reactions like heartburn, gas, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, muscle pain, and fatigue.

Allergy sufferers with FMS commonly include eggs, soy, wheat, dairy, and corn. Foods to watch out for to detract the symptoms include spicy foods, broccoli, cabbage, nuts, fruits, tomatoes, onions, or potatoes. Keeping a food journal enables the patient to start eliminating the correct foods.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that scientists have recently looked at whether chronic pain in FMS causes depression or whether depression may play a role in people's perception of pain.

In one study, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Cologne in Germany conducted a study which sought to reveal why FMS symptoms of depression are sometimes associated with increased sensitivity to pain. In trying to determine if antidepressant medication might alleviate the sensitivity, they found there was no impact on the FMS pain. Therefore, depression symptoms should be treated separately from the FMS diagnosis.

Though treatments are sparse without an FDA approved drug, the following may be recommended to a patient:

  • physical therapy
  • acupuncture                          fibro3
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • regular exercise
  • getting enough sleep at night
  • massage therapy
  • a balanced, healthy diet

Those who are obese with FMS and snore or have trouble sleeping may have sleep apnea affecting not only their sleep but their overall FMS pain management.

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.

 Live In AK? Need a Sleep Doc?

Topics: life with sleep apnea, losing sleep, pain, fibromyalgia

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