Diffuse pain? More sleep may help

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that has long been shrouded in misunderstanding, and sufferers of this syndrome experience symptoms particularly chronic pain that can make daily life difficult. To shed some light on the nature of this disorder, a new, large study suggests that sleep problems are associated with developing fibromyalgia.

Since the condition is known to be at least ten times more common in females, researchers in Norway tracked over 12,000 women, none of whom exhibited symptoms of fibromyalgia at the start of the study. The women reported on their sleep habits and sleep difficulties. A follow-up 10 years later found that 327 of the women (2.6 percent) had developed fibromyalgia. The most notable result, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, was that women who reported at the start of the study that they had problems sleeping always or often had over three times the risk of developing fibromyalgia than those women who had normal restorative sleep. The largest effect was seen in women 45 and older women in this age group who reported suffering from frequent or regular difficulty sleeping had a more than five times greater risk of developing fibromyalgia.

There is no specific diagnostic test that can determine if a person has fibromyalgia, which had previously led many people to question whether the disorder really existed. Since then, more precise characteristics have been identified: These patients generally feel pain at certain trigger points, which radiates to the rest of the body. They may also experience fatigue, depression, joint pains, and memory problems. As ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross explains, It s a vicious cycle in these patients more sleep deprivation causes more pain, and more pain causes more sleep deprivation. Helping them to sleep better can sometimes relieve pain. Non-specific remedies, including painrelievers and hypnotics, along with relaxation and stretching exercises sometimes prove beneficial, and a few years ago the Pfizer drug Lyrica was approved specifically to treat this disorder.