Norwegian investigators have identified a link between sleep problems and an increased risk in women developing fibromyalgia (long-term body-wide pain and tenderness in the muscles, joints, tendons, and other soft tissues). The risk of developing the syndrome increased with severity of sleep problems and the association was stronger among women who were middle-age and older compared to younger women. Based on one decade of data, results of the prospective investigation appear in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

According to an estimate, in the U.S. over 5 million individuals over the age of 18 are affected by fibromyalgia, with the prevalence among the general adult population at 3% to 5%. Investigations have revealed that onset of fibromyalgia usually occurs in middle age and up to 90% of those with the syndrome are women. Although prior studies have found that nocturnal awakening, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in individuals with the condition, it is not known if poor sleep habits play a part in the development of fibromyalgia.

Dr. Tom Nilsen and Dr. Paul Mork from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) conducted a study in order to examine the impact of sleep problems on risk of the syndrome in a group of women in Norway. Women aged 20+ who had previously taken part in a large population-based health study (the HUNT study😉 by answering a health-related survey and undergoing clinical examination were included in the study. 12,350 women who had no movement disorders or musculoskeletal pain were selected to participate for the current investigation.

Results from the study revealed that 327 women had developed the syndrome – representing a prevalence proportion of 2.6% during ten years. They found that the adjusted relative risk for women who experienced sleeping “often” or “always” was 2.98 among women aged between 20 – 44 years and 5.41 among those aged 45+. According to the researchers, further investigations are required to study if early detection and treatment of sleep problems lowers the risk of women developing the syndrome.

Dr. Mork, explained:

“Our findings indicate a strong association between sleep disturbance and fibromyalgia risk in adult women. We found a dose-response relation, where women who often reported sleep problems had a greater risk of fibromyalgia than those who never experienced sleep problems.”

Written by Grace Rattue