For people with fibromyalgia, sleep is more than ordinary downtime. Getting good quality sleep is an important strategy to reduce pain, fatigue, and emotional stress that are some of the biggest challenges of living with this condition.
Research suggests that the normal sleep pattern is interrupted for people with fibromyalgia. Studies show bursts of “awake” brain activity, that constantly interrupt the deepest, most restorative sleep stages. Some studies show that deep sleep is interrupted twice as often for people with fibromyalgia than for those with normal sleep patterns. It’s not clear whether brain chemistry or pain is the cause.
Even if the connection between sleep disturbance and fibromyalgia isn’t completely understood, getting better sleep is important. Regardless of the cause, interrupted sleep leads to higher pain, extreme fatigue, and limited mental functioning.
When you get better sleep with fibromyalgia, pain symptoms decrease, mental focus and concentration improve, you feel less stress and more able to enjoy daily activities.
Strategies for Better Sleep
There are dozens of things to try to improve sleep quality. Every body is different. Here are the my top recommendations
1) Dedicate regular hours for sleep, and don’t try to go over or under them. It may seem counter-productive to get up on time if you think you can sleep some more. But the quality of your sleep will be better and less disturbed if you limit your time to the just the amount you need to help feel refreshed.
2) Keep a regular routine. Your body naturally adjusts to a sleep schedule if you have a consistent bedtime. Specifically, going to sleep is easier if you have a regular time you go to bed. It also important to wake up at the same time everyday. In fact it actually may be more important to wake up at the same time every morning, in order to have better quality sleep.
3) Help yourself fall asleep more easily and regularly by winding down your activity level well before bedtime. That means limiting computer use, limiting time in front of any screen, avoiding drinks with caffeine and alcohol. Wind down your physical activity.
4) Exercise regularly, but leave the last 3 hours before bedtime for quieting your body. Many people find that a warm bath with Epson salts very relaxing to aching muscles. Warm herbal tea and a light protein snack can also help your body feel relaxed and calm. Relaxation techniques that calm your mind and body can be very helpful in bringing on good quality sleep. Deep breathing and massage are two such techniques that help.
5) Limit daytime napping. It makes it harder for you to get the deep restful sleep you need most during your regular bedtime hours.
These are just a few of the many sleep strategies that can make a big difference in reducing your symptoms.
Here are some additional resources for you, with more tips and insights into better sleep:
- Why Does Fibromyalgia Interfere with Normal Sleep? (video)
- Trouble Sleeping? Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene
- Improve Fibromyalgia Sleep Quality (video)
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