OBJECTIVE - Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FM) complain of inadequate sleep, which could contribute to common symptoms including sleepiness, fatigue, or pain. However, measures that consistently and objectively distinguish FM patients remain elusive.
METHODS - Fifteen women with FM and 15 age- and gender-matched controls underwent 3 nights of polysomnography; Multiple Sleep Latency Tests to assess sleepiness; testing of auditory arousal thresholds during non-REM stage 2 and stage 4 sleep; overnight assessment of urinary free cortisol; and analysis of 24-hour heart rate variability.
RESULTS - On the second night of polysomnography, women with FM in comparison to controls showed more stage shifts (p = 0.04) but did not differ significantly on any other standard polysomnographic measure or on the Multiple Sleep Latency Tests. Alpha EEG power during deep non-REM sleep, alone or as a proportion of alpha power during remaining sleep stages, also failed to distinguish the groups, as did auditory arousal thresholds. Urinary free cortisol did not differ between FM and control subjects in a consistent manner. However, decreased short-term heart rate variability (HRV) and especially ratio-based HRV among FM subjects suggested diminished parasympathetic and increased sympathetic activity, respectively. Other HRV measures suggested decreased complexity of HRV among the FM subjects.
CONCLUSION - Standard measures of sleep, a gold-standard measure of sleepiness, quantified alpha-delta EEG power, auditory arousal thresholds, and urinary free cortisol largely failed to distinguish FM and control subjects. However, HRV analyses showed more promise, as they suggested both increased sympathetic activity and decreased complexity of autonomic nervous system function in FM.