It has long been thought that poor sleep, a primary symptom of fibromyalgia, significantly contributed to the pain experienced by FM patients. Not so, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pain. Despite the negative quality of life implications, the researchers found that poor sleep is not a significant predictor of fibromyalgia pain intensity and duration.
Study Design and Results
74 adults with fibromyalgia were recruited for this University of Florida study. They were observed for 14 days. Participants rated their clinical pain every evening and completed sleep diaries describing the previous night’s sleep.
The scientists expected to find that the quantity and quality of sleep would predict the intensity of pain experienced by the subjects, however, results of the analysis showed that four sleep measures evaluated in the study failed to significantly predict clinical pain. The authors noted that the effects of impaired sleep, such as fatigue and inactivity, may play more significant roles in clinical pain than measures of sleep duration or insomnia.
Why Researchers Were Surprised
You may be wondering why the researchers thought that poor sleep would lead to more pain. Actually, it was a fairly reasonable assumption based on three factors.
- Previous studies have shown that interrupted sleep experienced by individuals with other pain conditions is predictive of next day clinical pain.
- Sleep duration has been shown to predict clinical pain in healthy adults.
- More than 75 percent of individuals with fibromyalgia report disturbed sleep.
Should You Try to Improve Your Sleep?
Even though poor sleep may not affect the intensity of your pain, it likely contributes to the fatigue, mood problems and other symptoms that often accompany fibromyalgia. Getting good, restorative sleep also plays a big part in your overall health. So it's still important to do what you can to improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Here are a few articles that you might find helpful if you are experiencing sleep problems:
Diagnosing Your Fibromyalgia Sleep Disorder
Solutions for Sleep Problems with Fibromyalgia
My Personal Quest for Better Sleep
Anderson RJ, et al. Predictors of Clinical Pain in Fibromyalgia: Examining the Role of Sleep. The Journal of Pain, 2012; 13 (4): 350.
American Pain Society (2012, April 23). Study explores role of impaired sleep in fibromyalgia pain. Press release.