Medical researchers have long sought to clarify the association between sleep disturbance and pain. Very little is known but a few key findings indicate that sleep and pain are intricately linked. For example, studies of patients experiencing pain after surgery show disturbed sleep, reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and a normalization of sleep as recovery proceeds. People with fibromyalgia may also experience an alteration in their patterns of slow wave sleep, which is the deepest stage of sleep. In one study , researchers selectively deprived a group of healthy middle-aged women of slow wave sleep for a period of three days. In response, the women showed a decreased tolerance for pain and increased levels of discomfort and fatigue, suggesting that such sleep disruption may play an important role in the development of fibromyalgia symptoms.
In addition, sleep aides are widely and increasingly used by people with fibromyalgia, although their long-term effectiveness for alleviation of pain is doubtful.