Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Fibromyalgia (Fibromyositis; Fibrositis)

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes long term body pain and tenderness in joints, tendons, and muscles. It seems to effect mostly women between the ages of 20 and 50.

Some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia appear to be headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and (most interesting to me and my line of work) sleep problems.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it appears that physical and/or emotional trauma may be a trigger. Other triggers may be an abnormal pain response. The final possible trigger appears to be sleep disturbances. In the sleep lab, one of my jobs is to score sleep studies where I go over the raw wave forms that have been collected during the night.

I rarely look at the patient chart prior to scoring the sleep stages and respiratory channels because I feel it can cause bias. I can accurately predict whether or not a patient has fibromyalgia based
on how their Delta (Stage 3, or N3) sleep appears. I find this to be fascinating. Is this a symptom of fibromyalgia, or a cause of it? Should a sleep study be used to diagnose fibromyalgia? See examples below and you can compare child delta, adult delta, and adult delta in a patient diagnosed with fibromyalgia.


Click on the examples to the left. It is the Delta sleep of a child. It doesn’t get any bigger or more beautiful. This is why you can seen a marching band through the room of a sleeping child in Delta and they won’t budge. The middle example is an adult in Delta. It also looks nice, but the decrease in human growth hormone released as we age causes the waves to attenuate. The example on the right is the Delta of a female that has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Even the untrained eye can see the difference.

Alpha-Delta is seen in the fibromyalgia patient. Delta should be slow waves in the range of .5 to 2 Hz (cycles per second). This is supposed to be when our body repairs itself so we wake feeling physically refreshed. In patients with fibromyalgia we see several bursts of Alpha waves, 8 to 12 Hz (cycles per second). Is this why the fibromyalgia patients have pain? Is it because the body isn’t able to properly heal itself during the night? This is my theory. Questions? Click below and join my forum. Let’s talk about it.

Pain is the main symptom of fibromyalgia and can be mild to severe.

The painful areas are called tender points. These can be found all over the body and can range from a deep ache to a shooting burning pain.

People with fibromyalgia seem to wake up with stiffness and aches that may be related to their Alpha-Delta sleep. Sometimes this pain improves during the day and then worsens during the night. Others seem to have pain all throughout the day.

If you feel that you have fibromyalgia, please contact your doctor. Unfortunately this is no known way to prevent fibromyalgia from occurring, but it may be helpful to join a support group that specializes in the subject.

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