It is hard to know exactly how many women are affected by uterine fibroids in the United States because not all women seek medical care for their symptoms, and some may have fibroids without even knowing it. However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, uterine fibroids are common, affecting up to 80% of women by the age of 50.
Not all women with fibroids experience symptoms and the severity of symptoms can vary widely. It is estimated that in the United States, approximately 20-40% of women with fibroids experience symptoms that require treatment, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure, and urinary incontinence. These symptoms can impede their ability to function day-to-day and prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep.
Today we are going to talk about fibroids and sleep disturbances and what to do if you are experiencing this problem.
Why Do Fibroids Cause Sleep Problems?
To understand the relationship between uterine fibroids and sleep, let’s look at a quick overview of these noncancerous growths.
Fibroids are a common condition, with an estimated 20–80% of women developing them by age 50. They are most commonly diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s, although they can develop at any age. Fibroids are often asymptomatic and are discovered incidentally during routine pelvic exams or imaging tests.
Fibroids can grow anywhere within the uterus, and they can vary in size from small, pea-sized growths to large, bulky masses that can distort the shape of the uterus. Fibroids can also grow in clusters and different locations within the uterus. The location and size of fibroids can affect the type and severity of symptoms experienced.
Fibroids are put into categories according to where they grow.
- Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow just beneath the lining of the uterus and can protrude into the uterine cavity, causing heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding.
- Intramural fibroids: These fibroids grow within the muscular wall of the uterus and can cause the uterus to enlarge and cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure.
- Subserosal fibroids: These fibroids grow on the outer wall of the uterus and can push into the pelvic cavity, causing pelvic pain and pressure. In some cases, they can compress nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum.
- Pedunculated fibroids: These fibroids grow on a stalk, either inside or outside of the uterus, and can twist on their stalk, causing severe pain and requiring emergency medical attention.
How Do Fibroids Disturb Sleep Patterns?
Fibroids can cause discomfort or pain, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. If fibroids grow numerous or large enough, they can cause discomfort or pain that may interfere with sleep quality. Here are the three most common ways fibroids cause sleep problems:
- Many women experience pelvic pain, pressure, or cramping initiated by fibroids, which can make it hard for them to fall asleep or stay asleep. Fibroids can also crowd internal organs, exert pressure on nerves, and cause lower back pain or pain that radiates down the legs.
This discomfort may make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position, leading to sleep deprivation and fatigue, which can affect daily activities and overall well-being.
- Frequent Urination
- Fibroids can cause frequent urination if they grow large enough to press on the bladder. The bladder is a muscular sac that stores urine until it is ready to be expelled from the body. When the bladder becomes full, it sends signals to the brain that trigger the urge to urinate.
If a fibroid grows in the area near the bladder, it can put pressure on the bladder and cause it to feel full even when it is not. It can also cause urinary urgency, which is a sudden and strong urge to urinate that is difficult to postpone. This can cause the need to urinate more frequently than usual, including during the night interrupting healthy sleep patterns.
- Heavy Bleeding
- Heavy bleeding from fibroids can have a significant impact on a person’s sleep quality and can cause anxiety and stress. The fear of leaking or staining sheets during the night can cause a person to wake up frequently to check their menstrual products, with frequent trips to the bathroom interrupting their sleep.
The discomfort and pain associated with heavy bleeding can also cause anxiety, and prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to anemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues and organs. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, which can make it difficult to stay awake during the day and fall asleep at night.
Are There Comfortable Sleeping Positions For Women With Fibroids?
Fibroids can cause discomfort and pain, particularly during sleep, and while there is no one “right” sleeping position for women with fibroids, there are several tips that may help alleviate discomfort and promote better sleep quality.
- Sleeping on your side is one of the best sleeping positions for fibroids is lying on your side with a pillow between your knees. This can help reduce pressure on your pelvic area and may alleviate pain and discomfort that can inhibit a good night’s sleep.
- Sleeping with a body pillow helps support your abdomen and reduces pressure on your pelvic area while you sleep. This can be particularly helpful if you have larger fibroids.
- Sleeping in a reclined position can help alleviate discomfort and pressure on your pelvic area. You can achieve this position by propping yourself up with pillows or using an adjustable bed.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach: Many women have reported increased pain when sleeping on their stomachs with fibroids.
- Sleeping on your stomach can potentially make fibroid pain worse because it puts pressure on your pelvic area. Fibroids can cause the uterus to enlarge, and sleeping on your stomach can compress the uterus, leading to discomfort and pain. Additionally, when you sleep on your stomach, your spine may be misaligned, which can also contribute to discomfort and pain.
- Using heat therapy such as a heating pad or hot water bottle to your pelvic area before bed may help relax muscles and alleviate discomfort.
- Lifestyle Changes: There may also be some lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep quality with fibroids, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with fibroids is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. While many can manage fibroid symptoms in the short term, these techniques do not eliminate the fibroids or their symptoms in the long run.
What Can You Do If Uterine Fibroids Are Affecting Your Sleep?
This lesser-known symptom of sleep disruption can impair your ability to function properly and affect your quality of life. The good news is that a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization is available, so you do not have to live with fibroids or their symptoms.
Treatment options offered by the OB-GYN including medication, and surgery, such as myomectomy or hysterectomy, have a significantly higher rate of risks and complications. These options also have negative long-term side effects that are best avoided.
The best treatment option for fibroids, and the first one you should consider, is uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE, as it is often referred to. UFE can eliminate all fibroids and neutralize their symptoms, regardless of the size and location of the fibroids or a woman’s age, and will preserve her future fertility.
UFE is an outpatient procedure that is performed to cut off the vital blood supply that fibroids need to live and grow. It usually takes under an hour, and then patients are released to comfortably recover at home with only a bandage as evidence of their procedure.
Typically, patients are back to their normal routines within a week, and most experience significant improvements in their symptoms anywhere between their first and third menstrual cycles.
Where Can I Go To Get Help So I Can Be Comfortable Sleeping With Fibroids?
If you are experiencing sleep problems or other unpleasant symptoms related to fibroids, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center. Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Ermentrout are experts in their field and have performed thousands of UFE procedures that have helped women eliminate fibroid symptoms and improve their quality of life.
The knowledgeable and caring professionals at the Atlanta Fibroid Center are available to answer any questions you may have and address your concerns. We invite you to set up an appointment with one of our team members to find out if UFE is a good option for you.
Why have surgery when a simple non-surgical procedure can eliminate your fibroids with less pain, a significantly shorter recovery time, and without compromising or losing your uterus? Call us today to learn more!