What is the connection between Fibromyalgia and sleep apnea? Learn how one can affect the other and how treating sleep apnea can have a positive impact on Fibromyalgia symptoms.
This post is sponsored by Aeroflow Healthcare and Chronic Illness Bloggers.
Photo credit: Logan Nolan via Unsplash.

Fibromyalgia as a syndrome is characterised by poor sleep. Almost everyone with Fibro will experience sleep issues at some point; ranging from disruptive sleep to insomnia to non-restorative sleep. It’s one of the most frustrating symptoms as it negatively impacts our quality of life.

Everyone with Fibromyalgia will appreciate that poor sleep leads to a worsening of other Fibro symptoms, such as pain. Yet, in my experience, little is offered to help improve sleep. When prescription drugs failed me, I was pretty much left to figure it out for myself.

I know I can’t speak for every patient and every doctor. But, I’d bet my money on some of you sharing in my experience. I truly wish that more doctors would look beyond symptoms and start to consider the possible underlying causes. Because sometimes, there is an underlying cause and it might even be something that can be successfully treated.

 What is Sleep Apnea?

Today, I want to talk about one specific health problem that is often overlooked. I want to chat about Fibromyalgia and sleep apnea. If you wake up constantly throughout the night, sleep apnea is well worth researching and talking to your doctor about.

GIF demonstrates what sleep apnea is and shows the airways becoming blocked. In this post, learn about fibromyalgia and sleep apnea and what the connection is.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is actually a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax during sleep, interrupting our ability to breathe. There are actually two types of breathing interruptions associated with OSA:

  • apnoea: this is where the soft tissues in the throat collapse enough to cause a total blockage for 10 seconds or more.
  • hypopnoea: which is a partial blockage of the airway that results in an airflow reduction of greater than 50% for 10 seconds or more.

These episodes of apnoea or hypopnoea occur several times throughout the night. When your body’s ability to breathe is hindered, it wakes you up; hence sleep is severely disrupted.  This, of course, then negatively impacts how you feel during the daytime.

There are many causes of OSA. Examples include obesity, physiology (e.g. naturally having a smaller jaw or narrow airway), certain medications, nasal congestion and age is a risk factor too (it’s more common in people over 40).

What is the link between Fibromyalgia and Sleep Apnea?

One link that is sometimes overlooked, though, is Fibromyalgia. A 2017 study by Köseoğlu Hİ et al found that 50% of the Fibromyalgia patients studied also had OSA. Not only that, but OSA negatively impacted these patients quality of life; the worse their OSA was, the worse their Fibromyalgia was.

A study from 2015 also demonstrates a link between OSA and Fibromyalgia. Plus, the researchers found that treatment with CPAP resulted in an improvement in functional symptoms. CPAP stands for ‘continuous positive airway pressure’. It’s a machine that treats OSA by delivering pressurised air, usually via a mask.

There are different CPAP machines available and your doctor and specialist CPAP companies, such as Aeroflow Healthcare, can help to determine which is right for you if you are diagnosed with OSA.

Aeroflow will work with you and your insurance company to help you obtain a CPAP machine that can be delivered straight to your door. If you are without insurance or have a high-deductible plan, Aeroflow offers the lowest manufacturer-allowed pricing on CPAP machines via their website CheapCPAPSupplies.com.

Aeroflow’s aim is to make accessing the treatment you need easy and affordable.

Learn about the connection between sleep apnea and Fibromyalgia and how treatment can help to improve your quality of life. Image shows a woman sleeping wearing a CPAP machine.

Determining if you have Sleep Apnea

But, how would you know if your Fibromyalgia symptoms were being caused or were worsening due to OSA? The difficulty lies in the fact that many people are unaware they are suffering from OSA. However, if you have difficulty waking in the morning, suffer from fatigue and/or struggle to stay awake during the day, it is worth considering.

To know for sure, you really need to have a sleep study done. This can be ordered through your doctor’s office and the tests and treatment are often available through medical insurance.

It is also possible to arrange home sleep testing services. In many ways, this is preferable as it means you are more likely to sleep as you would normally. I appreciate that many of us would struggle to get to sleep in a strange ‘test’ environment!

Fibromyalgia and Sleep Apnea: it is worth Considering

Although not everyone with Fibromyalgia will have sleep apnea, it is definitely worth considering. I am very much a believer in advocating for your own health and I think it’s always worth looking at potential underlying causes for symptoms. And, that can mean looking beyond your Fibromyalgia diagnosis.

If you are really struggling to improve your sleep and it is negatively impacting your Fibromyalgia, sleep apnea could be worth researching further. You never know, investigating the connection between Fibromyalgia and sleep apnea could potentially lead to an improved quality of life. That, in itself, is something that makes it well worth doing.


What are your thoughts? Have you considered the possibility of having sleep apnea? Or perhaps you are a patient with Fibromyalgia who has been diagnosed with sleep apnea? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment below.

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Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

6 Comments

    • Thanks, Jenna. It is so important as it can make such a positive difference if you are diagnosed and treated. I do think anyone with fibro/sleep issues should educate themselves about it 🙂

  1. This should be a mandatory test done when diagnosed with fibro. It improved my quality of life significantly since I had severy apnea and did not realize it. I went to bed tired and woke up just as tired. Apnea also shortens your life if left undiagnosed. I also had fibro fog so bad I was ready to give up. If you even think for a moment you might have sleep apnea please have a sleep study done. It gave me at least hope in living with fibro.

    • I fully agree with you there Annette. So many symptoms are put down as just being caused by Fibromyalgia. When, actually, if you dig a little deeper a cause can sometimes be found. I’m not saying that Fibro isn’t a legit diagnosis here… just that it’s worth looking beyond it sometimes. And, you are a perfect example of why. I am so pleased to hear your quality of life has significantly improved. Sleep is so, so important. Unfortunately, many will be living with sleep apnea and have no idea. I wish testing was mandatory too.

  2. Diane ackland Reply

    I have sleep apnea recently using machine about 2 months. But i have severe headaches and neck pain and other pain in my body for years and fatigue. My mother had sleep apnea and fibromyalgia i am concerned i have both as machine not helping i’m getting worse. Could the two be connected one causes the other. I live in australia they have no real tests for fibromyalgia. It seems to me you think there is a high risk that fibromyalgia could be causing problems still even though addressing sleep anea. I am at my wits end with pain and hedaches which develop to migrane at least 2 times a week. I have tryed treatment for them for years with no long term effect.

    • Ho, Diane. Sorry to hear that you have sleep apnea and that you are experiencing severe pain and fatigue. There could well be a connection between the two. I was of the belief that untreated sleep apnea could cause Fibro (or fibro symptoms) but if treating the sleep apnea isn’t helping to improve those symptoms, it sounds like it would be best for you to go back to see your doctor.

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