Mindfulness-based intervention, also known as flow meditation, seems to be a promising natural therapy to alleviate sleep problems in patients with fibromyalgia, according to Spanish researchers.
Their study, “Effects of Mindfulness Training on Sleep Problems in Patients With Fibromyalgia,” was published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition characterized by widespread muscle pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and memory and mood issues. Recent studies have shown that poor sleep quality, considered one of the hallmarks of the condition, is linked to decreased pain tolerance, anxiety, and depression in fibromyalgia patients.
Current therapies for fibromyalgia often include anti-inflammatories, antidepressants and other types of medication to control pain. But poor sleep is one of the most common adverse side effects associated with antidepressants.
Therefore, more effective therapeutic strategies for fibromyalgia should be those that combine pharmacotherapy with other nonpharmacological approaches, such as mindfulness, relaxation therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, physical exercise, and/or psycho-education.
While previous studies have already shown that mindfulness improves sleep quality in several disorders, including fibromyalgia, until now most mindfulness intervention studies focused mainly on pain management and failed to address sleep problems.
In this study, researchers set out to analyze the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention known as flow meditation on subjective insomnia, sleep quality, sleepiness, and sleep impairment in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
The randomized controlled trial enrolled 39 women with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to receive either a seven-week mindfulness treatment (sessions of two hours a week) or were placed on a waiting list that served as a control group.
Sleep assessments were recorded before and after treatment (pre- and post-test) and at a three-month follow-up.
Each session included a discussion and feedback on the previous session, 10 minutes of a guided body scan, presentation of exercises and metaphors corresponding to each session, and full awareness of breathing for 30 minutes.
Women who received the mindfulness treatment showed significant improvements in all sleep outcome measures post-test compared to those on the waiting list. Moreover, these effects were maintained at the three-month follow-up evaluation.
“These findings are consistent with studies showing improvements in the number of hours of sleep in patients with depression after eight weeks of mindfulness training,” researchers wrote. “Findings are also in line with studies demonstrating a reduction in general [fibromyalgia symptoms] following mindfulness training.”
However, this study was not without its limitations, as the authors pointed out.
“The findings of the present study should be considered in light of their limitations that include: (i) a small sample size, (ii) the absence of an active control condition, and (iii) reliance on self-report measures.”
Also, although the study included a three-month follow-up assessment, “it would be useful to investigate maintenance effects over a longer period of time,” the researchers added.
Still, these findings suggest the flow meditation program could be a promising treatment to manage sleep problems in fibromyalgia patients and might become a standard therapy in the future not only for fibromyalgia, but also for other pain disorders characterized by sleep impairment.
“Consequently, non-pharmacological treatments, such as mindfulness, that helps to regulate and improve sleep quality, appear to have a role in the treatment of [fibromyalgia],” investigators wrote.
“Thus, further research is warranted to replicate the findings of this study as well as understand the mechanisms that lead to improvements in sleep quality following participation in mindfulness training by individuals with [fibromyalgia].” they said.