Improve Sleep in Fibromyalgia Patients with Mindfulness

Improve Sleep in Fibromyalgia Patients with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Now, I do live in the moment, and it is quite beautiful, I feel at peace, I feel much more confident and I am able to look to the future with confidence. I am much more compassionate with myself and everyone else. I now accept that this illness is not my fault and it is now 100 per cent easier to deal with the primary pain that comes with fibromyalgia by eliminating the secondary suffering of worry and anxiety.” – Lesa Vallentine


Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population with about 7 times more women affected than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also have morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers.


There are no completely effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Symptoms are generally treated with pain relievers, antidepressant drugs and exercise. But, these only reduce the severity of the symptoms and do not treat the disease directly. Mindfulness practices have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain from fibromyalgia. But, it is unclear, however, if mindfulness training can reduce the sleep disturbances and insomnia that accompany fibromyalgia.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness Training on Sleep Problems in Patients With Fibromyalgia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Amutio and colleagues recruited patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control condition or to receive 7 weeks of Flow Meditation practice. They met in groups once a week for 2 hours and practiced daily at home. Flow Meditation consisted of mindfulness exercises from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, mindfulness techniques used in acceptance and commitment therapy, and exposure to and debate on metaphors and exercises used in Zen and Vipassana meditation. The participants were measured before and after training and 3 months later for insomnia, sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and sleep impairments.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the mindfulness trained group had significant increases in sleep quality and significant decreases in insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and sleep impairments. These effects varied from moderate to large and did not diminish over the 3-month follow-up period. So, mindfulness training appears to be a safe, effective, and lasting treatment for the sleep problems occurring with fibromyalgia. These are very significant improvements as lack of sleep by fibromyalgia patients contributes mightily to the reduced quality of life and overall health of the sufferers. This combined with the previously observed reduction in perceived pain produced by mindfulness training suggests that this training is an excellent alternative or supplemental treatment for fibromyalgia.


Improve Sleep in Fibromyalgia Patients with Mindfulness.


“Mindfulness may be able to help patients learn to direct their attention away from pain, inhibit the central nervous system’s ability to perceive pain. reduce distressing thoughts and feelings that come with pain, which can keep them from making the pain worse, enhance body awareness, which may lead to improved self-care, promote deep muscle relaxation, lessening tension and irritability, and create a buffer against stress-related symptoms” – HealthLine



CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Amutio A, Franco C, Sánchez-Sánchez LC, Pérez-Fuentes MdC, Gázquez-Linares JJ, Van Gordon W and Molero-Jurado MdM (2018) Effects of Mindfulness Training on Sleep Problems in Patients With Fibromyalgia. Front. Psychol. 9:1365. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01365


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a complex psychosomatic pain condition. In addition to generalized pain and various cognitive difficulties, new FMS diagnostic criteria acknowledge fatigue and sleep problems as core aspects of this condition. Indeed, poor sleep quality has been found to be a significant predictor of pain, fatigue, and maladaptive social functioning in this patient group. While there is promising evidence supporting the role of mindfulness as a treatment for FMS, to date, mindfulness intervention studies have principally focused on dimensions of pain as the primary outcome with sleep problems either not being assessed or included as a secondary consideration. Given the role of sleep problems in the pathogenesis of FMS, and given that mindfulness has been shown to improve sleep problems in other clinical conditions, the present study explored the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention known as Flow Meditation (Meditación-Fluir) on a range of sleep-related outcomes (subjective insomnia, sleep quality, sleepiness, and sleep impairment) in individuals with FMS. Adult women with FMS (n = 39) were randomly assigned to the 7 weeks mindfulness treatment or a waiting list control group. Results showed that compared to the control group, individuals in the mindfulness group demonstrated significant improvements across all outcome measures and that the intervention effects were maintained at a 3 month follow-up assessment. The Meditación-Fluir program shows promise for alleviating sleep problems relating to FMS and may thus have a role in the treatment of FMS as well as other pain disorders in which sleep impairment is a central feature of the condition.

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