How Fibromyalgia Disturbs Normal Sleep

We know that every body needs sleep.

During sleep, your body restores both physical and mental functions. Sleep takes your body through stages of rest, moving from higher to lower levels of brain and muscle activity. This is the sleep cycle, which repeats a few times during the course of normal sleep.

Sleep specialists refer to the 5 stages in normal sleep, normally described by number. Briefly they are:

  1. Transition; you have just fallen asleep but can easily be awakened and become alert
  2. Light sleep where brain activity, heart rate and breathing slow in preparation for deep sleep
  3. The start of deep sleep, also called slow wave sleep, because the level of brain activity begins to produce slower delta-waves when measured
  4. Deep sleep when the brain activity shows only slow waves, and the body does most of its regeneration; if awakened at this phase, a person is groggy and unfocused
  5. Dream stage, or active stage of sleep. This includes rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep. Brain, breathing and muscle activity increase, sometimes almost as much as when you are awake.

During stages 3 and 4, the body does fine repairs to bones muscles and tissues. Hormones to stimulate cell growth increase. During REM sleep, brain areas that handle memory and emotions are more active.

What does sleep do for you?

Good sleep helps you feel refreshed and re-energized physically. You feel alert when awake, and your memory stays in reasonably good working order.

More work is being done now to study the connection between fibromyalgia and sleep. Research shows that fibromyalgia disturbs the stages of deepest sleep. One study at the National Institutes of Health found that when deep sleep is interrupted, otherwise healthy women had lower tolerance to pain, and increased discomfort and fatigue.

With fibromyalgia, these symptoms are linked with a lack of normal sleep:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling a lack of energy
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression

The connection between sleep disturbance and fibromyalgia needs more study. Researchers are working to better understand the causes of sleep problems. Does the pain of fibromyalgia disrupt the sleep cycle, or does altered body chemistry cause the interrupted sleep cycle seen in people with fibromyalgia?

Better sleep means much better pain relief, energy and lower emotional stress for people with fibromyalgia. Because sleep is so important to coping with fibromyalgia, it’s important to know that getting good sleep may have to be a major focus for you in taking good care of yourself.

Fibromyalgia definitely makes it much harder for you to get the sleep you need – but once you understand sleep’s role in reducing your symptoms, you can plan some good sleep strategies to make the most of your ability to sleep.

More sleep stratgies are coming soon. Meanwhile you can check out these more detailed suggestions:

Improve Sleep Quality with Fibromyalgia
What is the Connection Between Sleep Problems and Pain

If you enjoy this health tip please share it or print it for your use. It comes to you from Dr. Betty Keller, an integrative therapy and fibromyalgia specialist, practicing in Franklin Lakes New Jersey at the Optimal Wellness Center