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Fibromyalgia and Sleep Disorders

The key symptom of Fibromyalgia is poor sleep and fatigue

  • Fibromyalgia is a widespread pain and fatigue syndrome without a known cause.
  • The prevalence of fibromyalgia ranges from 2% to 3% of the general population
  • Women affected 6-9 times more frequently than men.
  • The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in the general population is estimated to range from 5% to 7% in men and 2% to 4% in women.

However, in women who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, the incidence of fibromyalgia is tenfold higher than in the normal population, indicating a strong association between sleep disordered breathing disorder and fibromyalgia.

  • Sodium oxybate reduces pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance and improves functionality in fibromyalgia: Results from a 14-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

Pain. 2011;152(5):1007-1017.Russell IJ, Holman AJ, Seick TJ, et al.

  • Apnea induced sleep deprivation contributes to the development of Fibromyalgia symptoms. It’s also possible that lax connective tissues associated with fibromyalgia may make airway obstructions more likely.
  • Many fibromyalgia patients are treated with anti-depressants, which suppress REM sleep and resultant increases pain sensitivity next day.

Symptoms of Fibrofog

Fibrofog is the term used to explain the mental dysfunction in fibromyalgia. Sleep apnea can cause similar symptoms during the daytime.

Fibrofog symptom list:

  • short term memory loss
  • difficulty remembering where you put things
  • difficulty remembering plans
  • difficulty with language, including trouble holding conversations, understanding conversations, and expressing thoughts
  • difficulty finding the “right” word to use in conversation
  • trouble remembering simple numbers
  • transposing letters and numbers
  • trouble concentrating and focusing
  • trouble retaining new information

Fatigue and poor sleep have surpassed pain as main symptom of fibromyalgia. The main reason for the fatigue is the poor quality sleep most people with fibromyalgia experience. Sleep apnea can contribute to this fatigue. Conversely, Fibromyalgia syndrome can potentially increase the risk of sleep apnea in those who don’t already have the condition.


Germanowicz D, Lumertz MS, Martinez D, Margarites AF. Sleep disordered breathing concomitant with fibromyalgia syndrome.syndrome. J Bras Pneumol. 2006;32(4):333-338.

Moldofsky H, Scarisbrick P. Induction of neurasthenic musculoskeletal pain syndrome by selective sleep stage deprivation.
Psychosom Med. 1976;38(1):35-44.