Sleep is a vital element of pain reduction and management of symptoms for Fibromyalgia suffers. However, this can be incredibly difficult to do when suffering from the condition.
The lowered pain threshold of suffers causes sleep disturbances. There is even data, taken through polysomnographic sleep analysis, to suggest that during non-rapid eye movement sleep cycles, in which the brain is supposed to be resting, fibromyalgia suffers experience wakefulness. Ultimately, this then results in a less restful and restorative night’s sleep. It is this restoration which is needed to help manage and reduce fibromyalgia sufferer’s symptoms. In fact, sleep deprivation causes a lowered pain threshold in even the healthiest of people. For a fibromyalgia sufferer, this worsens chronic pain and increases the likelihood of flare-ups.
The two-way relationship between sleep and fibromyalgia means it is important to tackle as many of the issues associated with bad sleep as possible. For fibromyalgia sufferers, it is common to be diagnosed with insomnia (regular difficult with falling or staying asleep) and Restless Leg Syndrome (uncomfortable sensation in, and overwhelming urge to move legs). This post will outline some of the most effective ways to holistically combat sleep issues for fibromyalgia sufferers.
Healthy Sleep Hygiene
One of the most effective ways to improve sleep is to get into a sleep routine. This involves everything from winding down in the evening, to waking up the next day. There are various elements that impact our sleeping.
It is widely acknowledged that light levels have huge ramifications on our sleep. Throughout the day, our body receives serotonin from light sources. It is most easily accessible to us in the morning hours, between 9 and 12. Even a quick 10 minutes outside each day can dramatically increased our serotonin intake, even if it is raining or overcast. It is also possible to purchase SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light boxes. These lights mimic the power of natural sunlight. Ensure the light is UV free, at least 10,000 lux and measures at least 12x14 inches. The manufacturer’s instructions will tell you the distance to sit or stand from the light, and for how long a day – this is usually around 20-30 minutes.
Just as it is important for us to increase our intake serotonin in the morning, it is equally important to limit it in the evening. The serotonin we have received throughout the day begins to convert itself to melatonin, which is essential for sleep. Limiting light in the evening is essential for this process to occur. This proves is hindered particularly severely by Blue Light. Laptop and smart phone screens, as well as fluorescent and LED lamps produce blue light. As this slows the melatonin production, it reduces our feeling of sleepiness. More than this, it also effects our sleep cycle once already sleep. It particularly hinders the quantity of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep we get. As fibromyalgia sufferers have impaired non-REM sleep, it is essential that their REM sleep time is at it’s maximum. Therefore, the reduction of blue light is important.
For these reasons, it is widely advised not to use screens from smart-phones or computers in the half-hour before you plan to sleep. If you can increase this to an hour it is advised. It is also important to reduce your environmental lighting in this hour to dim, warm light. This is particularly important when it comes to bedroom lighting – doctors recommend this light to be as dim as possible prior to sleep. It is also advisable to keep our bedrooms a strictly tech-free area. If this is not possible, the main priority should be to ban the use of screens and tech from your bed itself.
It is often helpful to get into a clear routine when it comes to sleep. Just as we should schedule our light intake throughout the day, we should also create a routine than spans from the beginning to the end of the day. Research shows that sleeping at around the same time and waking at the same time each morning (yes, even on weekends) is helpful to maintain a healthy body clock. Our body will naturally know when it is time to fall asleep and wake up if we continue to do so at the same time each day.
It is also important to set a time in which you begin to unwind for bed each evening. This should be the period in which you pay most attention to eliminating your blue light intake. During this period, many people have different approaches to relaxation. Some suggestions are having a bath, reading, doing puzzles or listening to music or audiobooks.
The final important element of a routine is getting out of bed each morning within 15 minutes of waking up. This helps with sleep and activity throughout the day. We should also try not to get into bed throughout the day at all – our bed should be reserved for sleep and unwinding. This is also true of napping; it is strongly advised not to nap throughout the day, in order to build up as much melatonin as possible for our night’s sleep.
It is well researched that exercise is a key practice in fibromyalgia treatment. As well as reducing pain, it is also important for healthy sleep. Even a small amount of exercise each day can dramatically improve the ability to fall and to stay asleep. It is important, however, to exercise in the day and not in the three hours prior to sleep, as this can cause increased energy and restlessness before bed.
It can be difficult to find exercise that is tolerable for those suffering from fibromyalgia. Swimming and exercise in water or pools is encouraged, as it reduces the pressure upon joints and muscles. Yoga, Tai Chi and other exercises that encourage mindfulness and meditation alongside body exercise are also encouraged, as they help to focus the physical and mental together.
There are many natural supplements that help to increase our sleep quality. It is advisable to speak to your doctor before adding or changing supplementation.
CBD, a legal substance derived from cannabis, has been proven to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have reported this reduction of inflammation as a relief from pain, both throughout the day and at night.
CBD is also proven to increase sleep quality, and the quantity of that all-important REM sleep, much needed by fibromyalgia sufferers. This has been proven through many trials and tests. An additional benefit of CBD is that it helps through aiding relaxation of the body, and reducing anxiety. For many fibromyalgia suffers, anxiety about pain and bad sleep can often worsen these effects, and CBD can help to reduce this. CBD comes in a wide variety of forms, including CBD oil, CBD capsules and transdermal CBD patches. It is always important to do your own research and find the correct delivery method for you.
A possible link between vitamin D deficiency and bad sleep has been discovered through research. It has also been found that those who suffer from Fibromyalgia often have lower than average vitamin D levels alone. Therefore, it is possible that supplementing with vitamin D can help to improve sleep quality.
Although sleep can often be an overwhelming obstacle for fibromyalgia, there are many approaches one can take to help improve sleep quality. Creating a regular sleep routine, which incorporates sleep hygiene practices, is proven to improve REM sleep quality. Along with exercise, and effective supplementation, it is certainly possible to have good night’s sleep whilst suffering from Fibromyalgia.