A new study suggests that poor sleep quality is a reason for the sexual problems reported by women with fibromyalgia (FM), and that treating disturbed sleep can improve sexual function. The study, titled “Effects of low sleep quality on sexual function, in women with fibromyalgia,” appeared in the International Journal of Impotence Research.
FM is a painful disorder that healthcare providers have sometimes failed to recognize as an actual medical condition. Characterized by chronic pain, often in localized body regions, and fatigue, it can be hard to distinguish from conditions like arthritis. People with FM often have disturbed sleep, and sexual problems can be common although the causes for a loss of libido are not clear. Medications that decrease the sex drive or painful symptoms that are worsened during sex could contribute, as could poor sleep.
Researchers were interested in understanding the relationship between lost sleep and sexual problems in FM. Led by Akin Soner Amasyali of Adnan Menderes University School of Medicine, Department of Urology, in Aydin, Turkey, the scientists studied 54 sexually active and premenopausal women with fibromyalgia. They used standard assessments of sleep, depression, fibromyalgia, and sexual functioning, including: the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).
The investigators found that when sleep quality was low, there was a statistically meaningful increase in sexual dysfunction. Sleep loss and sexual problems also increased as symptoms of fibromyalgia increased. Sexual functioning was not impacted by age, body mass index, level of depressive symptoms, or by how long the subjects had fibromyalgia.
In their report, the authors concluded, “Sexual dysfunction in female patients with fibromyalgia may be due to low sleep quality. Treatment of the sleep disorder may improve female sexual function.”
Possible treatments include changing the bedroom conditions, going to bed earlier, or reducing alcohol and caffeine intake.
Physicians treating FM could look for the possibility of sleep disorders as well as sexual problems to improve patients’ treatment and quality of life. People with FM may also discuss lost sex drive with their physician, and explore the possibility that poor sleep quality is a contributor.