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A Guide to Better Sleep with Fibromyalgia

Expert Verified ByExpert Verified By: Maggie Cadet, MD
Table of Contents

Folks who suffer from fibromyalgia may experience sleep difficulties as a result. So if you or a loved one has fibromyalgia, you may want to understand these sleeping issues and how you can address them.

In this article, I’ll share with you what I learned from medical experts regarding what fibromyalgia is, and its potential impact when sleeping. In addition, I’ll offer some of their tips and tricks for sleeping with fibromyalgia. Keep in mind, however, that we at Sleepopolis are not medical experts, and these recommendations should not be taken as medical advice.

What is Fibromyalgia?

You could describe fibromyalgia as diffuse body pain. A 2014 study in Pain Research and Management identified pain as fibromyalgia’s defining feature. Citing a sample size of 2,596 respondents with fibromyalgia, the study found that, in addition to pain, folks with fibromyalgia dealt with morning stiffness, tiredness, and (as we’ll discuss ahead) poor sleep. (1)

It’s also far more prevalent in women than in men. According to a 2017 study in The Korean Journal of Pain, fibromyalgia affects approximately 4 to 5 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 60, and of this, approximately 85 to 90 percent are female. (2)

Fibromyalgia and Sleep

To get a better idea of how fibromyalgia can affect folks’ sleep, I turned to rheumatologist Maggie Cadet. She said she commonly hears her fibromyalgia patients complain about their sleep. Dr. Cadet goes on to say: “Many people report not feeling like they get restful sleep because deep sleep patterns are interrupted.” Why? Pain may be a big part of the answer.

Waqas Ahmad, a family medicine physician and leader of the medical advisory board at Insurecast, told me how painful fibromyalgia can be. He said that “disturbed sleep causes more severe pain and the person gets stuck in a vicious cycle. Pain causes sleeplessness and sleeplessness causes further pain.”

A 2017 study in the Saudi Medical Journal reviewed the sleep effects on those with fibromyalgia. The researchers concluded that the pain of fibromyalgia dealt a significant blow to participants’ quality of sleep, efficiency, and duration (3).

In addition, a 2008 study in Arthritis Care & Research showed how prevalent sleep issues are for folks with fibromyalgia. This study looked at 600 patients with fibromyalgia and found that at least 94 percent of patients were shown to have sleeping problems. (4) Given that ridiculously high percentage, you may be wondering just what you can do about it.

Practical Tips for Sleeping with Fibromyalgia

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate sleep problems for folks with fibromyalgia. To that end, I asked three medical experts for any advice they could provide. If you have fibromyalgia, you may want to note the following tips for improving your sleep:

1. Turn off the tech.

Dr. Ahmad recommends turning off the TV at least one hour prior to bed-time, so binge on your favorite shows accordingly. He also recommends you don’t use devices, such as your smartphone, an hour or so before getting some shut-eye.

2. Consider taking medication.

Dr. Maria Vila of eMediHealth says you should talk to your doctor to determine which medications might work best for you in treating fibromyalgia. She notes that your doctor may recommend a combination of medications to address fibromyalgia’s various symptoms.

3. Improve your diet.

Dr. Cadet recommends changing your diet to improve your sleep by limiting alcohol, caffeine, sugar, highly processed foods, or fried foods. That may be harder said than done, but do your best to cut back on the junk food.

Dr. Cadet also suggests making sure you eat plenty of food with omega-3-fatty acids, which she says might help with depression and improve your quality of sleep. To that end, she gave me the following examples:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Soy
  • Canola oil

4. Make sure the temperature is right.

Dr. Ahmad told me the ideal temperature is likely somewhere between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You may want to try out different settings in this range to determine the temperature that’s coziest for you.

5. Sleep in the fetal position or on your stomach.

Dr. Cadet and Dr. Ahmad both recommend sleeping in the fetal position to help relieve tension in your muscles and joints. This, of course, can help you sleep better.

I also spoke with Chris Norris, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and founder of SleepStandards.com to get more info on the best sleeping positions. He suggested that, even though sleeping in the fetal position can be helpful, you may also want to consider sleeping on your stomach to alleviate pressure. I should note that stomach sleeping may not work for everyone. For some people, stomach sleeping just doesn’t cut it when it comes to support.

6. Take a vitamin D supplement.

When I spoke with Dr. Ahmad, he told me that Vitamin D may help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia so that you can sleep better. A 2017 study in the Journal of Endocrinology suggests that supplementing with Vitamin D may help alleviate some pain given that it stimulates the body’s anti-inflammatory processes. (5)

7. Exercise on a regular basis.

As you may already know, regularly exercising can help you sleep better at night. But what kinds of exercises should you do? Dr. Cadet suggests the following low-to-moderate impact aerobic exercises:

  • Water aerobics
  • Tai-chi
  • Yoga

It’s important to pick an exercise that you’d enjoy doing, so you’re more likely to stick with it!

8. Set up a consistent sleep routine.

Both Dr. Ahmad and Dr. Cadet recommend sticking to a regular sleep routine. Some tips for doing this are setting a reasonable time to begin preparing for bed along with turning off the lights at a specific time.

Last Word From Sleepopolis

Again, we’re not medical experts, so please don’t construe these recommendations as medical advice. We understand that everyone with fibromyalgia is going to experience it differently, so not all of these tips will likely apply to each person. That said, we hope some of these recommendations will help improve the quality of sleep for you or someone you hold dear.

References

  1. Picard, L et al. Music as a sleep aid in fibromyalgia. Pain Research and Management, 2014
  2. Makrani, A et al. Vitamin D and fibromyalgia: a meta-analysis. The Korean Journal of Pain, Oct 2017
  3. Keskindag, B, and Karaaziz, M. The association between pain and sleep in fibromyalgia. Saudi Medical Journal, May 2017
  4. Bigatti, S. Sleep disturbances in fibromyalgia syndrome: Relationship to pain and depression. Arthritis Care & Research, June 24, 2008
  5. Oliviera, D et al. The interfaces between vitamin D, sleep and pain. Journal of Endocrinology, July 2017
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Paul Joe Watson

Paul Joe Watson

Paul has authored dozens of articles on life and business, contributed to e-books, written software curriculum for adults, and coordinated multiple blood drives. He’s also married to a woman who, admittedly, is smarter than him, and he has a young son who is not smarter than him (yet).

Paul Joe Watson

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