Rest to Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain
7 tips for restful sleep
Over half of people with fibromyalgia experience significant sleep issues. You may have a hard time falling asleep or wake up multiple times throughout the night. Maybe you don't spend enough time in the deeper sleep stages. Or you possibly suffer from all three. It doesn't so much matter the precise sleep problem you have, but that you have one in the first place. Not getting a proper night's sleep will only aggravate your chronic pain and fatigue.
Finding a solution to your sleep problems will not cure your fibromyalgia, but it will reduce your pain and fatigue. And since those are arguably the most debilitating fibromyalgia symptoms, that may be consolation enough.
The Importance of Sleep When You Have Fibromyalgia
The value of sleep goes beyond simply giving you a rest. It has significant psychological and biochemical importance. A few reasons your body needs a good night's sleep include:
- Sleep allows the body to repair damaged tissues.
- Dreaming promotes good physical and mental health.
- Some essential hormones—growth hormone, for instance—are secreted during sleep or shortly before waking.
- You concentrate better and are less fatigued with a good night's sleep. Lack of quality rest can induce what's sometimes called the fibro fog (the inability to focus and concentrate due to fibromyalgia's extreme fatigue).
Many researchers believe fibromyalgia sufferers don't get enough deep sleep. Basically, sleep researchers have identified three types of sleep—light sleep (stages 1 and 2), deep sleep (stages 3 and 4), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
If you don't spend enough time in deep sleep, your body lessens the production of important hormones. Decreased production of such hormones may increase pain in people with fibromyalgia.
Similarly, if you don't experience enough REM sleep, your body may produce less cortisol (though the hormone, which controls blood pressure and blood surgar, may be released at any time during sleep). People with fibromyalgia may have low levels of cortisol, which contributes to their excessive fatigue.
7 Tips to Help Achieve Better Sleep
- Anti-depressants. Some people find that low doses of tricyclic anti-depressants help achieve a deeper sleep. The drugs make people feel tired, and then fall asleep. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects.
- Don't watch TV or browse the Internet on your computer immediately before going to bed. These activities boost electrical activity in the brain, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Get more exercise.Your pain and fatigue may keep you from exercising, but light exercise may help you get a more restorative sleep.
- Herbal supplements. Valerian, kava kava, and melatonin are alternative medications that have helped some people fall asleep. Valerian helps with insomnia, kava kava also treats insomnia, in addition to stress and anxiety, and melatonin helps reset your body's natural rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep. Always talk with your doctor before taking herbal or other supplements to avoid a potentially serious interaction with medications you take—whether they are over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
- Mattress selection. If you're not sleeping on a bed that encourages a good night's sleep, you might be in the market for a new mattress. There are a variety of mattresses available that may make a big difference in your quality of sleep.
- Prescription sleep remedies. There are a variety of FDA-approved drugs specifically for sleep disorders, including zolpidem (Ambien) and eszoplicone (Lunesta).
- Simulate the breathing of deep sleep. This may "trick" your body into sleeping by taking slow deep breaths that mimic those of the deeper sleep stages. You'll feel relaxed and better able to fall asleep.
If you're experiencing sleep problems, talk to your doctor. Together you will determine the best treatment options to give you the quality sleep you need to help curb your fibromyalgia symptoms.