Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Fibromyalgia and Sleep

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    Most people with fibromyalgia (FM) have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from achieving deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of people with fibromyalgia. During sleep, individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
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    A lack of sleep over time can make fibromyalgia worse because it can add to your fatigue and stress levels. Some researchers even believe that abnormal sleep might be a cause of fibromyalgia.

    Sleep normally restores your energy and reduces stress. However, people with fibromyalgia seem to lack the phase of sleep known as non-REM, or non-rapid-eye-movement, sleep. This kind of sleep is important for restoring your energy.

    If you are having difficulty with sleeplessness, talk with your doctor or healthcare provider. There are medications available that can help you get the sleep you need to better manage your fibromyalgia.
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    Getting enough or good quality sleep is often a problem for people with fibromyalgia: up to 90% of them suffer from disordered sleep. That's why doctors so strongly suggest that you try to improve and regulate your sleep habits, if you suffer from fibromyalgia. Start by asking, "What do I do right before going to bed?" Watching TV or using your laptop in bed before you sleep is not recommended. Sleep experts suggest relaxing, low-key activities, like reading or taking a warm bath. Ask, "Do I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day?" Getting into a regular waking and sleeping routine can improve your quality of sleep. Consider what you eat and drink in the hours before bed, as certain foods and beverages (such as caffeinated sodas) can disrupt sleep.
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    Emotions, stress and depression can affect anyone's sleep. For people with fibromyalgia, however, these kinds of problems can lead to a negative cycle where lack of sleep worsens pain, in turning feeding depression.

    Many people with fibromyalgia already experience sleep disruptions as part of the condition. With fibromyalgia, emotions, stress and depression can cause sleep disruptions in the deepest, most restorative stage of sleep, called "delta wave" sleep. Research has shown that when people without fibromyalgia are deprived of this type of sleep, they report fibromyalgia-like symptoms, including muscle tenderness and pain.

    If you have fibromyalgia and are concerned that your emotions, stress or depression are affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about possible solutions.
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    Almost all people with fibromyalgia tell of difficulty sleeping.  They tell of frequently waking up during the night, feeling tired during the day, feeling unrefreshed, and many require more frequent rest periods during the day.  Some researchers find that it may be the constant pain that interrupts sleep.


    There is some evidence that this disease may be due to an abnormality of deep sleep.  This has been found through abnormal brain waveforms in deep sleep in people with fibromyalgia  People tell of feeling “awake” or in a shallow state of sleep throughout the night, instead of experiencing restful, deep level sleep.  The problem with this is that during the “delta” or deep level sleep, the body does its repair work and replenishment.  For example, the hormone somatostatin, which is produced in deep sleep and is vital for maintaining good muscle and other soft tissue health, has also been found at low levels in these individuals.  If deep sleep is reduced over a long period of time, the body may have less ability to “repair and replenish” energy as well.

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    Good sleep hygiene for a person living with fibromyalgia means developing habits that help you get the rest you need. Some simple guidelines can make a big difference when it comes to getting good, uninterrupted sleep.

    For example, make your bedroom a soothing place, without the distractions of TV or computers. Use comfortable bedding and sleepwear. Also, keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.

    Go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Avoid napping during the day so that you will be ready for sleep at your regular bedtime.

    In the hours before you go to bed, avoid caffeine and alcohol and don't eat for several hours before going to bed. This will allow you to fall asleep more easily.

    Finally, try to relax before you go to bed. Listen to calming music or take a soothing bath. You might try meditation for relaxation. By following all of these recommended practices, you can help establish good sleep hygiene that will lead to restful nights.
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    Naps can't make up for a chronic lack of nighttime sleep -- a common problem for people with fibromyalgia -- but a quick nap or midday rest can go a long way in minimizing fibromyalgia fatigue. Even just a 10-minute power nap may help in dealing with fibromyalgia. Patients should talk with their fibromyalgia doctor about steps they can take to sleep more soundly.