Research has shown massage improves sleep in fibromyalgia syndrome patients, while also decreasing those patients’ pain—and fibromyalgia patients often seek massage and other touch therapies. New research shows female fibromyalgia patients with sleep problems have more pain and greater depression than do fibromyalgia patients without sleep problems.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing set out to explore differences in demographic- and illness-related variables among women with fibromyalgia syndrome with documented sleep problems and those without.

As part of the baseline assessments for a larger intervention study, 104 women with fibromyalgia syndrome wore an actigraph and completed a sleep log for 72 hours, according to an abstract published on www.pubmed.gov. Participants also completed a baseline questionnaire and a physical exam to quantify the Tender Point Index.

Although almost half (44 percent) of the women rated their sleep as bad or fairly bad, only 22 of the 104 women (21 percent) had objective sleep deficits (less than six hours sleep duration), the abstract noted.

“The women with objective sleep deficits had significantly higher pain scores on the tender point index, perceived their sleep as significantly worse, and reported significantly more depressive symptoms and more negative impact of fibromyalgia syndrome on functioning than those without deficits,” stated the abstract.

Descriptive statements in the sleep logs revealed frequent problems with energy, fatigue, and functioning for women in the sleep deficits group.

“Sleep problems are a major concern among women with[fibromyalgia syndrom],” the researchers wrote. “Those with concurrent depressive symptoms, high pain and limited functioning may be candidates for in-depth sleep assessment and behavioral programs to improve sleep.”

“Subjective and objective sleep difficulties in women with fibromyalgia syndrome” was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. (2010 Oct;22(10):548-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2010.00547.x.)

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