Sleep Disorders Affecting Fibromyalgia Patients
Fibromyalgia is condition characterized by devastating, chronic, widespread pain. As one could imagine, patients’ sleep patterns can often be disturbed by the severity of this debilitating pain. Additionally, sleep disorders can also be a common, primary symptom in some fibromyalgia patients. These sleep disorders include, but are not limited to:
Insomnia can be characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep or when the sleep that is obtained is non-refreshing or of poor quality. These problems occur despite adequate opportunity and circumstances for sleep and they result in problems with daytime activities. This can lead to a diminished quality of life due to the patient’s diminished health, job performance, and general quality of life.
Eighty percent of patients who suffer from fibromyalgia also suffer from sleep apnea. This is a serious sleep disorder that will cause a patient’s breathing is involuntarily interrupted during their sleep. Left untreated, patients stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for up to a minute or longer. In most cases the sleeper in totally unaware of their cessation of breathing because they do not trigger a full awakening. This means that the brain, and the rest of the body, may not get a sufficient amount of oxygen in order to properly sustain it.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome, also known as RLS, is a disruptive neurological disorder that is an irresistible urge to move the legs due to unusual or unpleasant sensations in the legs. These sensations are often described as creeping, crawling, aching, searing, tingling, bubbling, tugging, or pulling; these sensations commonly last for one hour or longer at a time. Due to the fact that RLS most often occurs in the evening or at night, it can lead to a disrupted sleeping pattern and reduce a patient’s quality of life.
Sleep bruxism is when a patient clenches or grinds their teeth at night while they are sleeping. This can be very problematic because clenching the teeth puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around the jaw. This can lead to temporomandibular joint problems, also known as TMJ. Furthermore, grinding can wear down the teeth, cause headaches, earaches, jaw pain, and it can also be noisy enough to bother sleeping partners. These symptoms can all lead to a negative impact on a patient’s overall quality of life.
Fibromyalgia is an ongoing, chronic condition for which there is no known cure. It is common for symptoms of fibromyalgia to come and go throughout the patient’s life. The symptoms may be more severe at certain times of the day, month, or year and they may lessen, for an extended period of time, only to reappear later. However, there are ways of coping with fibromyalgia symptoms and preventing a worsening of pain. Here are some tips:
- Prioritize sleep – it is important for people with fibromyalgia to maintain a regular sleep schedule and to get treatment for sleep disorders if necessary.
- Keep a sleep diary – it is important for patients with fibromyalgia to keep record of how they are sleeping. Reviewing these notes over several weeks will give great insight into sleeping problems.
- Create a quiet environment –chronic pain has been known to intensify in the presence of loud noise.
- Exercise – regular exercise is known to improve symptoms in some patients. For people with fibromyalgia, low-impact activities such as walking, yoga or swimming are among the best choices.
- Medication – work with a physician to develop an effective medication treatment plan.
- Massage – gentle massage, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques are all generally considered beneficial with respect to chronic pain management.
Seeking Help from a Health Care Provider
Unfortunately, at this time, there is still no cure for fibromyalgia. Therefore, most common course of treatment is usually aimed at the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. As noted above, the first line of defense commonly includes the patient incorporating physical therapy, an exercise program, and stress-relief methods in their daily life. Nonetheless, patients are encouraged to seek the professional advice of a team of health care professionals including a family care physician, a physical therapist, a mental health counselor, and a licensed acupuncturist in order to help manage their symptoms.