Sleep Apnea and Fibromyalgia

sleep apnea and fibromyalgia

Image: Pixabay/ Dieter Robbins

Sleep apnea and fibromyalgia seem to go together hand to hand for a lot of people. And both seem like they almost make the other worse. The difficulty sleeping that comes with sleep apnea makes it harder than it usually is to get a good night’s sleep with fibromyalgia. And a lack of sleep is one of the worst things for fibromyalgia.

It’s a trigger for flare-ups and makes your painful symptoms even worse. But what exactly is sleep apnea? And how are sleep apnea and fibromyalgia related?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common disorder that makes sleeping difficult. Basically, people with sleep apnea have tissue closing their throat which causes them to stop breathing a few times every hour. As a result, they wake up in the middle of the REM stage of sleep. That means they don’t realize they woke up, but still feel tired the next morning.

It usually affects people who are overweight. The excess weight on their neck is usually what’s pressing down on their throat, blocking the flow of air. But anyone can be affected by sleep apnea.

People with sleep apnea often find that they wake up feeling like they haven’t slept at all because they basically haven’t. They wake up so many times when their breathing stops that the sleep they get isn’t restful.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause a lot of different problems. It leads to raised blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. And the lack of sleep can leave you with difficulty functioning during the day.

How Do Sleep Apnea And Fibromyalgia Affect Each Other?

The most important relationship between sleep apnea and fibromyalgia is the fact that both are conditions that make it difficult to get a restful sleep.

Fibromyalgia causes constant pain and also causes a sense of fatigue. Both of which are conditions that make it hard to get enough rest.

So when you combine sleep apnea and fibromyalgia, you end up feeling chronically exhausted. And fibromyalgia gets much worse when you can’t get enough sleep. So sleep apnea makes fibromyalgia much harder to live with and also makes the symptoms progressively worse.

The lack of sleep also leads to a slower metabolism, which leads to obesity. And obesity is the largest contributing factor to sleep apnea. So having sleep apnea and fibromyalgia creates a situation where you can’t get enough sleep and it starts a vicious cycle that makes both conditions worse.

Luckily, there are ways to treat the condition.

Are There Ways To Treat Sleep Apnea?

The best thing you can do if you have both sleep apnea and fibromyalgia is to begin treating your sleep apnea. While fibromyalgia is difficult to treat effectively, you can resolve your sleep apnea problems fairly easily. The key is to get a sleep apnea diagnosis as soon as possible. But this can actually be pretty difficult. Most people with sleep apnea have no idea since the symptoms only present themselves while they’re asleep.

And this is especially true when you have sleep apnea and fibromyalgia. The most obvious sign of sleep apnea is constantly feeling tired, but obviously, that’s also a symptom of fibromyalgia, which makes knowing that you have sleep apnea difficult. The easiest way is if you have a partner who can pick up on some of the other signs of sleep apnea like heavy, loud snoring, and frequently interrupted breathing.

Either way, if you feel like you’re even more tired than you should be with fibromyalgia, it might be worth trying to get a diagnosis for sleep apnea.

First, see a doctor and talk to them about your concerns. They’ll schedule you for a sleep study, which is where you sleep in a lab so that your breathing can be monitored.

If it turns out that you have sleep apnea, there are a few things you can do for treatment. First, and easiest, is a CPAP machine, which is a mask that blows air down your airway while you’re sleeping to keep your throat open. Most people with sleep apnea find that a CPAP machine is all they really need to treat their condition effectively. But for people who find it doesn’t work, there are also surgical options.

Either way, it’s important to get your sleep apnea treated as soon as you can. Anything you can do to get better sleep when you have fibromyalgia is extremely useful for managing your symptoms. And breaking the cycle of sleep apnea and obesity will help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.

Just be proactive about managing your symptoms. And be on the lookout for signs that you have sleep apnea. You can’t get treatment until you realize you have it.