Sleep and Fibromyalgia

Last updated: August 2022

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia years after having insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t know if the sleep issues were due to fibromyalgia or if they were somehow related. Some of the same symptoms that helped them diagnose my migraines led to the discovery of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Pain, sleep apnea and fibromyalgia

The first thing I remember being told was that overall people with fibromyalgia have a lifelong struggle with falling asleep, and sleep disturbances. The next thing was that sleep and pain go together hand in hand.

This, to me, sounded strange because I couldn’t understand how my sleep would affect my pain and vice versa. It felt like a crazy pattern that pain disturbs your sleep and then your sleep being poor in turn causes more pain and it’s a continual cycle.

The connection

Even now, I still struggle with understanding the connection between pain and sleep. But in my journey to eliminating or reducing pain, I have committed to using my CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every day, creating a routine, and working towards getting better.

My shoulder had frozen, and I was having tingling in my hands and feet. At the time they checked for a pinched nerve, but it wasn’t that. After my official diagnosis, I knew that some of the things I had been feeling were early symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Sleep issues have plagued me all my life. Insomnia, for as long as I could remember, was added to tossing and turning due to weird pain in my legs. Later, I learned this was restless leg syndrome. I noticed that I also started feeling anxious and depressed. Everything came full circle when I realized all of these things were related to fibromyalgia.

So many different diagnoses

Somehow, when I learned what fibromyalgia is, it felt like the pieces to the puzzle now fit. However, now that I understood that everything, I’m feeling fits together, I had no clue how to make it better.

When I talked to my sleep doctor at the time, she said that the 1 thing that would make everything better is using my CPAP daily. At the time, it wasn’t possible. I was struggling with a mask that didn’t fit. The tension and pressure of the headgear made my headaches worse, and it felt like I would never be able to use the CPAP.

She was patient. With her guidance and help after several different masks, in a year we found 1 I could tolerate. However, the more I used my CPAP, the more things with my other conditions stayed the same.

Puzzled by conditions fitting

While it’s still puzzling how my conditions fit together and maybe even exacerbated the other. The pain is overwhelming at times. This directly affects my ability to fall asleep, especially when I’m in a flare-up. Also, I’ve noticed the less I sleep, the more likely I am to flare-up as well.

For now, I’m taking it a day and time. With my CPAP, I am working on sleeping better and hoping that 1 day, it will be a vital piece in my pain management with fibromyalgia. I’m currently 3 months into continual use of my CPAP. I hope that getting my sleep together will help me experience less pain and get better overall.

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