What questions should I ask myself about sleep habits and my fibromyalgia?

Dr. Dede Bonner
Health Education Specialist

An estimated 80 percent of people with fibromyalgia have sleeping disorders, including chronic insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder (periodic nighttime movements). Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a fibromyalgia research pioneer, discovered that people with fibromyalgia demonstrate abnormal brain activity and other sleep abnormalities.

Dr. Charles R. Cantor, a sleep medicine expert and the medical director of the Penn Sleep Centers of the University of Pennsylvania, explains, “Chronic pain and sleep difficulties are mutually reinforcing in a negative way. When you have a lot of pain it interferes with your sleep. When you have poor quality sleep, it makes your pain worse. It’s a vicious cycle. The good news is that you can treat both pain and sleep disturbances. But if you treat only one of them, you aren’t going to do as well.”

If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, ask yourself these questions as a checklist to assess what simple changes in your own sleep hygiene may help you.

- How sleepy am I during the day?

- How sleepy am I at bedtime?

- Am I going to bed and getting up at approximately the same time every day?

- Do I have bedtime “rituals” that help me relax before bedtime?

- Am I using stimulants that could disturb my sleep?

- Am I using my bedroom for activities other than sleeping or sex?

- Is my sleeping environment as comfortable as possible?

- How are my emotions, stress, and depression contributing to my sleeping problems?

- What medications might help me to sleep better? Could any of my current medications be causing my insomnia? What are my options?

- What does my bed partner tell me about my sleeping habits?

- Could I have another sleep disorder independent of fibromyalgia?

Many sleep deprived people with fibromyalgia suffer in silence, thinking that their sleeping problems aren’t worth discussing with their doctors or they are too embarrassed to bring them up. The sleep experts advise both patients and physicians to move beyond this attitude.

Sleep disorders are not your cross to bear, and are treatable with medications and behavioral changes. As Dr. Charles R. Cantor concludes, “It’s important to tell your doctor what your sleep schedule is, how well you think you are sleeping, and what your perceived sleeping difficulties are.”

The 10 Best Questions for Living with Fibromyalgia: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

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The 10 Best Questions for Living with Fibromyalgia: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

A good mind knows the right answers...but a great mind knows the right questions. And never are the Best Questions more important than after the life-altering diagnosis of fibromyalgia -- or when you...
Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
Getting enough or good quality sleep is often a problem for people with fibromyalgia: up to 90% of them suffer from disordered sleep. That's why doctors so strongly suggest that you try to improve and regulate your sleep habits, if you suffer from fibromyalgia. Start by asking, "What do I do right before going to bed?" Watching TV or using your laptop in bed before you sleep is not recommended. Sleep experts suggest relaxing, low-key activities, like reading or taking a warm bath. Ask, "Do I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day?" Getting into a regular waking and sleeping routine can improve your quality of sleep. Consider what you eat and drink in the hours before bed, as certain foods and beverages (such as caffeinated sodas) can disrupt sleep.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
If you have fibromyalgia and have struggled with sleep, I'm going to make a suggestion: Start talking to yourself. Specifically, start asking some questions about your sleep habits. Finding the right answers could help you cope with your fibromyalgia-related sleep problems.
  • Am I sticking to a sleep schedule? Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Am I consuming too much caffeine or alcohol? Both can keep you up at night and disturb your sleep.
  • Am I getting enough exercise? Getting lots of physical activity is known to improve sleep. Just avoid workouts close to bedtime, which will rev you up and could keep you awake.
  • Am I napping too much? Daytime siestas can make it harder to get a full night of sleep.
  • Is my bedroom part of the problem? The place where you sleep should be cool and dark.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.