Strong Correlation Discovered Between Fibromyalgia Pain and Quality of Sleep

Not only does poor sleep result in more pain for fibromyalgia patients, but it is also linked to a lower pain threshold.

Not only does poor sleep result in more pain for fibromyalgia (FM) patients, but it is also linked to a lower pain threshold.

Lead author Maren Hyde-Nolan, PhD, and her Wayne State University colleagues used 90 FM patients, ages 21 through 84, to determine the relationship between the factors. The findings were presented at the 34th Annual American Pain Society Scientific Meeting in Palm Springs, CA. “Fibromyalgia patients tend to have more restless sleep,” Hyde-Nolan told MD Magazine.

For one part of research, the subjects self-reported their pain levels as well as sleep patterns, including when they fell asleep and how long they think they slept for. Depression and pain catastrophizing were also taken into consideration. “People were fairly accurate in reporting when they fell asleep and how they slept,” Hyde-Nolan confirmed. “Interestingly enough, what they reported themselves was more predictable than the objective data.”

Additional data was obtained through actigraphies which the patients wore on their wrists all day for 2 weeks — except when in the shower. The device monitored when the individuals were awake or asleep and disruptions during the night were also tracked.

Hyde-Nolan said that even though everyone has different typical sleep patterns, most people tend to be more restless in the beginning of the night — which was found to be common among the FM participants.

The patients who reported having a lower than average refresh score after a night’s sleep were also the ones who experienced more pain the following day. The research indicated that those who had higher depression and pain catastrophizing — as well as those who were older in age – had a “poor sleep and higher pain” correlation. “The less sleep you get, the lower your pain threshold,” Hyde-Nolan said.

The team noted that the sleep-pain relationship results could be because the individuals’ self-reported perception of sleep has influence over the perceived amount of pain.

As the fight against fibromyalgia continues, this research suggests that a solution to ease pain may not come in a pill form but by concentrating on sleep. The authors explained that addressing the core issues can inhibit pain in the long run. “By treating their sleep, it can improve the pain,” Hyde-Nolan concluded.