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Fibromyalgia and Sleep

  August 02, 2017

Submitted by the Koala Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders

Imagine waking up feeling exhausted, stiff, and sore all over your body. You feel pain while getting out of bed, taking a shower, even brushing your teeth. For people living with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), this is their reality. It is a condition that has often been misunderstood because its causes are unknown. Many have even been told that the syndrome is a figment of their imagination or a byproduct of depression. However, more recently, medical studies have proven that the condition does in fact exist, and, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), it affects two to six percent of people worldwide.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain, stiffness, and tenderness at multiple points, and chronic daytime fatigue. The vast majority of sufferers are middle-aged women; however, FMS can affect both men and women of all ages. Doctors have typically prescribed medications to help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia because the cause is unknown. In recent years, however, studies have pointed to the significance of sleep in patients with fibromyalgia. In fact, the NSF notes that sleep disruption plays a vital role in the recurrence of FMS symptoms. One reason for this is that pain makes sleep far more difficult. Additionally, fibromyalgia often occurs along with sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

According to a 2013 study, as many as 61 percent of men and 32 percent of women suffering from fibromyalgia also have OSA. It is even possible to mistake the symptoms of sleep apnea for fibromyalgia. Both conditions are linked to daytime fatigue, headaches, difficulty focusing, depression, anxiety, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, to name a few.

OSA occurs when a person stops breathing during sleep due to obstruction of the airway, which takes place when the tongue and muscles relax during sleep; the lower jaw falls back toward the throat or the airway becomes blocked. People with untreated sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times a night without realizing it and often deal with chronic snoring. The good news is that treating the sleep apnea can lessen pain and improve general well-being for fibromyalgia patients. This is exciting news because it offers an alternative to drug therapies. If you or a loved one suffer from fibromyalgia, it is a good idea to keep a sleep diary and to consider a sleep study from a doctor certified in sleep medicine.

While Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most commonly prescribed treatment for OSA, Dr. Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders is using a cutting-edge treatment called Oral Appliance Therapy. It is proven to be an effective, scientifically based treatment alternative that patients may find more comfortable and easier to use. The purpose of the appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. In addition, Dr. Gray can also diagnose and treat temporomandibular disorders, which have been linked to fibromyalgia as well. While treating these problems may not eliminate fibromyalgia, it can certainly help improve symptoms. After all, we all feel better when we’ve had a good night's sleep.

For more information on Oral Appliance Therapy for Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and TMJ Disorder please contact Koala Center for Sleep Disorders in Bloomington at 309-319-6568 or visit to schedule an appointment. Back to Top

August 02, 2017
Categories:  Disease/Illness

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