Sleep problems affect many people with ME/CFS; in fact, one investigation of 1578 patients found that 92–94% reported sleep disturbances with a high degree of severity. Now, a new report in BMJ Open from the Centre for Sleep Research at Northumbria University has confirmed this and shown, in addition, that patients differ in the kinds of sleep problems they experience.

The researchers’ analysis of data from 343 Fukuda-defined patients from the Netherlands, who all underwent a single night of examination at a clinic, had 2 major findings. First, 104 of the patients (a full 30.3%) had a “primary sleep disorder” (mainly sleep apnoea) which might, in itself, explain some of their symptoms, including muscle aches and pains, fatigue and problems with concentration. Second, the remaining 239 patients could be grouped into 4 different sleep categories each with a distinct ‘sleep profile’; two of these groups have mainly insomnia-like symptoms, while two are characterised by poor quality of sleep – showing that different types of sleep dysfunction can exist, even though all patients have the same diagnosis.

Problems with sleep are important since they impact on all other aspects of patients’ lives. For those interested, an informative article reporting patients’ own experiences of sleep disturbances appeared in InterAction in 2007, “Wide eyed and restless” with a research comment by ME Research UK; and CFIDS Chronicle had an interesting article on research aspects, “Is Sleep the Root of CFS Evil?”

Reference: Are there sleep-specific phenotypes in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome? A cross-sectional polysomnography analysis. Gotts et al. BMJ Open 2013 Jun 20; 3(6)