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Fibromyalgia and poor quality of sleep

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Reports of a recent study by Dr. John McBeth, of the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre at Keele University in Staffordshire, and colleagues have suggested that among adults over the age of 50, non-restorative sleep – the sort where you wake up feeling tired and worn out – is strongly tied to onset of widespread pain, a hallmark of fibromyalgia. The study was published in the peer reviewed journal ‘Arthritis & Rheumatology’. Fibromyalgia being strongly linked to poor sleep may be a step in the right direction toward finding a cure in the future.

Methodology of the Study

For the above mentioned study, Dr. McBeth and colleagues identified factors linked to increased risk of developing widespread pain in older adults.

The data they studied came from over 4,300 adults over the age of 50 who were free of widespread pain at the start of the study period, including around 2,700 who reported having some – but not widespread – pain. The participants were followed for 3 years and re-assessed for development of widespread pain (using American College of Rheumatology Criteria). The researchers then analyzed the data using statistical tools to find which factors were most strongly linked with onset of widespread pain.

At the 3-year follow-up, researchers found that pain status (some pain or no pain), anxiety, physical health-related quality of life, having some form of cognitive complaint and non-restorative sleep were linked to increased risk of developing widespread pain. But the strongest link to development of widespread pain was with non-restorative sleep.

Poor Sleep – a cause or effect?

As the above study was not designed to establish cause and effect, researchers are not conclusive about whether non-restorative sleep is a cause or effect of fibromyalgia.

But according to Prof. Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research UK, the study is important because it provides more evidence of a link between poor sleep and widespread pain or fibromyalgia. “Brainwave studies have shown that people with this condition often lose deep sleep,” he explains, adding that “in an experiment where healthy volunteers were woken during each period of deep sleep, a number of them developed the typical signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia.”

Prof. Silman feels that pain, sleep disturbance and anxiety can combine to form a vicious cycle but adds that “research has also shown that aerobic exercise improves fitness and reduces pain and fatigue, and should also improve sleep and wellbeing.”

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This web site is run by an Arthritis Specialist based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On this site you will find news about the latest in arthritis, information about research results in the field, tips and information and diet and exercise, and much more.

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