People with fibromyalgia often struggle with the harsh restrictions it can place on their life. A combination of severe chronic pain, overwhelming chronic fatigue, and other symptoms makes fibromyalgia hard to live with. In addition, it’s a poorly understood condition with few good treatments.

But there is one potential avenue for treatment that is being neglected: sleep apnea treatment. New research suggests that people with fibromyalgia often have sleep apnea and should be tested, because treating sleep apnea could help improve fibromyalgia symptoms.

woman sitting at her desk rubs her shoulder due to pain

How Common Is Sleep Apnea for People with Fibromyalgia?

This new study is a large population-based analysis based on a chart review of over 400,000 people referred to clinics for care. The clinics included sleep, psychiatry, and rheumatology, as well as other types.

The study found that 86% of people with fibromyalgia referred to the sleep clinic also had sleep apnea. This was about 17% of those referred, a rate about three times that in the general population.

The overlap of people with sleep apnea and those with fibromyalgia didn’t seem to be as great at other clinics. For example, at the rheumatology clinic, only 18.7% of those with fibromyalgia also had sleep apnea. And at the other clinics only 3.6% of those with fibromyalgia also had sleep apnea. However, 96% of people at these clinics had not been tested for sleep apnea!

In other words, of the 4% of people with fibromyalgia who were tested for sleep apnea, about 90% actually had it.

This study doesn’t have the statistical power to show that there is a strong connection between fibromyalgia and sleep apnea. But it does tell us that we should probably be testing fibromyalgia patients for sleep apnea.

You Should Get a Sleep Test If You Have Fibromyalgia

We don’t have enough evidence to suggest that sleep apnea is common in people with fibromyalgia, but some research is suggestive. Previous studies suggest that at least 50% of people with fibromyalgia also have sleep apnea. Other research says that 60% of people with fibromyalgia have chronic fatigue syndrome , a condition that could easily conceal sleep apnea, whose most common symptoms include daytime sleepiness and chronic fatigue.

We also don’t know whether sleep apnea treatment can improve fibromyalgia symptoms, but if it works half as well for fibromyalgia as for migraines, it would be a great improvement.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

The biggest challenge in treating sleep apnea is just figuring out if you have it. Most people with the condition are undiagnosed, even if they have symptoms that strongly suggest the condition. If you want to get tested for sleep apnea in the Detroit region, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.