Patients With Fibromyalgia Struggle to Stay Asleep

Despite a greater sleep drive, patients with fibromyalgia struggle to stay asleep.

New research published in the Clinical Journal of Pain suggests that sleep in patients with fibromyalgia is characterized by an inability to maintain continuous sleep, even though these patients have a greater sleep drive compared to patients who do not report disturbed sleep.

The combination of decreased latency to persistent sleep and slow-wave sleep, and increased frequency of wake and sleep bouts and decreased wake bout duration contributed to the report’s findings.

“This post hoc analysis demonstrates that the nature of sleep disturbance among patients with fibromyalgia reporting difficulty with sleep can be distinguished from patients with primary insomnia and from controls,” the authors wrote. “We demonstrate that despite comparable wake time during the night (WASO), fibromyalgia patients can be differentiated from patients with primary insomnia and from controls without sleep difficulties, on the basis of frequency and duration of wake or sleep bout episodes.”

The researchers examined 132 patients with fibromyalgia who reported having difficulty sleeping, 109 patients with primary insomnia, and 52 patients who reported no sleep disturbance. Study participants were primarily female, with mean ages being 48.4, 45.4, and 30.2 years in the 3 cohorts, respectively.

Patients with fibromyalgia showed more frequent (+ 5.92; P= 0.0075) and shorter wake bouts (–1.23 min; P= 0.0016) than those with primary insomnia. The investigators found that age was a significant variable in the shorter duration of wake bouts between patients with fibromyalgia and patients with primary insomnia (P= 0.0085).

“We feel these characteristics, in addition to broadening our understanding of the sleep disturbances in these populations, may have relevance in terms of the pathophysiology of the sleep disturbance as well as differential treatment practices for physicians evaluating and managing disrupted sleep in patients with fibromyalgia or those with primary insomnia,” the authors wrote.


Roth T, Bhadra-brown P, Pitman VW, Roehrs TA, Resnick EM. Characteristics of Disturbed Sleep in Patients With Fibromyalgia Compared With Insomnia or With Pain-Free Volunteers. Clin J Pain. 2016;32(4):302-7.