5 Ways to Sleep Better with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by sleep problems. Try these expert tips to enjoy deep rest.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

If you have fibromyalgia, chances are you have some sleep problems, too. “People with fibromyalgia don’t get into the deeper stages of sleep that make you feel rested,” explains neurologist Dawn Marcus, MD, author of The Woman’s Fibromyalgia Toolkit. That means you can sleep eight hours and still wake up tired.

Poor sleep also increases the inflammatory chemicals in the blood that cause pain and lowers your pain threshold so you're even more sensitive to pain. And if that isn't bad enough, poor sleep can trigger weight gain, which also worsens fibro symptoms.

The bottom line: Getting good sleep is an important weapon against fibromyalgia. Try these five strategies to help you fall asleep and wake up well rested.

Establish a Sleep Schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at about the same time each day is important to get your body clock into a natural rhythm. So is being active during the day and avoiding caffeinated beverages in the afternoon. If you're out of sync, try taking melatonin to get on track.

Turn Out the Lights
Light hitting the eye stimulates a part of the brain that resets your body clock, dramatically affecting sleep. “Lighted electronics make your body think you’re not supposed to be asleep,” says clinical psychologist and ShareCare sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD. Even a lighted alarm clock that shows the time can be disruptive. “The last thing you need is to wake up and see the time,” Dr. Breus says. “That triggers arousal and there’s no way to fall back to sleep.”

So turn that alarm clock around or place it on the other side of the room. Also use blackout curtains, especially during summer months when the sun rises earlier. And Avoid watching TV or using the computer an hour before bed.

Block Sound
Noise is another sleep disruptor. But your bedroom shouldn’t be too quiet, either. “The quieter a room gets, the louder any noises seem,” says Dr. Breus. He recommends a sleep sound machine to block out annoying noises. A study shows that it works better than sleeping pills in promoting sleep.

Control the Temperature
“If it’s too warm, you'll have trouble falling asleep," says Dr. Breus. But if it’s too cold, you may wake up, and toss and turn to create friction to warm up.  An hour before bed, set your thermostat to between 65 and 75 degrees, depending on what works best for you.

Create a Comfy Bed
The bed, mattress, pillow and sheets can all affect your sleep. If you have a specific physical problem that might be helped by a different pillow or mattress, ask your orthopedist or chiropractor about which would be appropriate. Adjustable orthopedic beds that you can reposition may help. “They take the muscle strain off the lower back, and that is usually the greatest issue,” says Dr. Breus.

The right type of sheets can also help. Some people like cotton sheets with a high thread count—try up to 500 threads per square inch. Others prefer a satiny finish, often called “Tencel.” If you tend to get hot at night, try moisture-wicking sheets.

Or simply wash your sheets more often. Last year, a study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that people got a better night’s rest when sleeping on clean sheets.

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