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Poor sleep habits linked to increased risk of fibromyalgia in women

Middle-aged and older women with sleep problems are at greater risk

Researchers from Norway have uncovered an association between sleep problems and increased risk of fibromyalgia in women. The risk of fibromyalgia increased with severity of sleep problems, and the association was stronger among middle-aged and older women than among younger women. Results of the prospective study, based on ten years of data, appear in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

Experts estimate that fibromyalgia -- a chronic musculoskeletal pain syndrome -- affects more than 5 million people over the age of 18 in the U.S., with the general adult population prevalence at 3% to 5%. Studies have shown that the syndrome onset typically occurs in middle age and up to 90% of those with fibromyalgia are women. While previous research has found that insomnia, nocturnal awakening, and fatigue are common symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia, it is unknown whether poor sleep habits contribute to the development of this pain syndrome.

Drs. Paul Mork and Tom Nilsen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) investigated the impact of sleep problems on risk of fibromyalgia in a population of women in Norway. Female participants aged 20 and older who had participated in a large population-based health study (the HUNT study; by answering a health-related questionnaire and undergoing clinical examination were included in the investigation. The researchers selected 12,350 women who were free of musculoskeletal pain and movement disorders for the current study.

"Our findings indicate a strong association between sleep disturbance and fibromyalgia risk in adult women," said Dr. Mork. "We found a dose-response relation, where women who often reported sleep problems had a greater risk of fibromyalgia than those who never experienced sleep problems."

Results show that at follow-up, 327 women had developed fibromyalgia -- representing an incidence proportion of 2.6% during 10 years. The adjusted relative risk for women who reported having sleep problems "often" or "always" was 5.41 among women over 45 years of age and 2.98 among those between 20 and 44 years. The authors suggest that further studies are needed to investigate whether early detection and treatment of sleep disturbance reduces the risk of fibromyalgia in women.

This study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the article may contact

Full citation:

Sleep Problems and Risk of Fibromyalgia: Longitudinal Data from the Norwegian HUNT Study." Paul J Mork and Tom IL Nilsen. Arthritis & Rheumatism; Published Online: November 14, 2011 (DOI: 10.1002/art.33346).

Author Contact:To arrange an interview with Dr. Mork, please contact Kari Støre Gullichsen with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at t or 47-73550574.

About the Journal

Arthritis & Rheumatism is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College, and covers all aspects of inflammatory disease. The American College of Rheumatology ( is the professional organization who share a dedication to healing, preventing disability, and curing the more than 100 types of arthritis and related disabling and sometimes fatal disorders of the joints, muscles, and bones. Members include practicing physicians, research scientists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers. For details, please visit

About Wiley-Blackwell

Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit or our new online platform, Wiley Online Library (, one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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