Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Sleep Apnea

Is Sleep Apnea a risk factor for Fybromyalgia Symptoms?

Do you experience fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain all over your body including muscles and joints  ? 

Many patients with obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome experience rheumatic manifestation and fibromyalgia symptoms.

In this article you'll discover:

  • What is fibromyalgia?
  • The link between sleep apnea and fibromyalgia symptoms,
  • Why so many people with sleep apnea have fibromyalgia?
  • How can you treat it?

What is Fibromyalgia (FM)?

Fibromyalgia is a common but poorly understood syndrome, characterized by widespread diffuse pain lasting for at least 3 months, muscle discomfort and tenderness and complains of chronic fatigue.

The disease is more prevalent in women, especially after menopause, and the age of the patients is between 30 and 50 years of age.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Signs

Although the most common symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain in muscles and joints, this syndrome is associated with many other symptoms, such as:

You can find a short description of fibromyalgia symptoms in this video:

An interesting description of fibromyalgia symptoms by a real patient:

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

There is no known direct cause of fibromyalgia, although the researchers know that FM occurs:

  • after a trauma - like a car accident,
  • due to some viruses who can attack the nervous system,
  • sleep deprivation - this can increase pain sensitivity,
  • many patients with upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea have also symptoms of fibromyalgia.

This video explains more about the causes of fibromyalgia:

The Link Between Fibromyalgia and Sleep Disorders

Studies have demonstrated that primary sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and periodic limb movements can also be found in patients with fibromyalgia.

You can read more in the article about rheumatic manifestations of sleep disorders.

Another study discusses about obstructive sleep apnea being a direct cause of fibromyalgia; however, although sleep apnea is found in select patients with FM, it does not appear to be responsible for symptoms of fibromyalgia.

You can read more in the article about Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome as an uncommon cause of fibromyalgia.

Encouraging is the fact that patients with a successful sleep apnea treatment can also diminish or even cure the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

When the sleep quality increases using the CPAP therapy, the pain intensity decreases. If the therapy stops, the chronic pain will reappear.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

Patients with sleep apnea and fibromyalgia can treat both syndromes with CPAP therapy. The explanation for this treatment is unknown, but it has something to do with the improvement of sleep quality.

More exactly, polysomnographic studies of patients with fibromyalgia describe a multitude of sleep related issues (also caused by sleep apnea), such as:

  • decrease in sleep efficiency,
  • decrease in total sleep time,
  • increase in frequency of arousals and awakenings.

The spectral electroencephalographic (EEG) analyses of patients with fibromyalgia have demonstrated an increase power in alpha frequency bands, which has been correlated with worsening of pain after sleep.

That's why the natural treatment for fibromyalgia is:

  • good sleep hygiene, such as: keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, ensuring adequate sleep time, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, which can interfere with sleep),
  • exercise,
  • and cognitive behavioral therapy: rest, warm baths, heat and relaxation.

This video explain why the exercises can ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia:

More info in the article about non-pharmacological therapy and complementary and alternative medicine in fibromyalgia.

Regarding the treatment with medicine, some chemicals can be useful for one patient but ineffective for others. That's why is important for the treatment strategies to be individualized.

These medications are:

  • tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline),
  • nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic drugs,
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (fluoxetine),
  • gabapentin,
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) reduces pain and fatigue symptoms, and it improves sleep quality in patients with fibromyalgia,
  • pregabalin, which is the only drug approved by the FDA for treating and managing fibromyalgia.

More info can be found in the article about Drugs for Fibromyalgia.

Bottom line...Patients with fibromyalgia symptoms should be evaluated for sleep disorders, including obstructive apnea and restless legs syndrome. In these type of patients, CPAP therapy can be really helpful, improving the fatigue, pain and sleep problems altogether.

› Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Sleep Apnea

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