Fibromyalgia is a somatic pain disorder that can be very hard to treat, and very disruptive to one's life. Sleep quality can be a great way to improve symptoms, but it's very difficult to get good sleep with fibromyalgia. If you are someone with fibromyalgia and you struggle with getting good sleep, then below we are going to talk about some remedies you can use to improve your sleep.
What is fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia syndrome affects muscles and soft tissue with symptoms like chronic pain, fatigue, sleep problems and painful tender points. It's the second most common condition affecting bones and muscles, but is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. There is no cure, but a combination of medication, exercise, healthy habits and stress management can help to minimize symptoms to the point of a low impact on your quality of life.
The exact cause is unknown, but researchers speculate that repeated nerve stimulation causes the brain and spinal cord of fibromyalgia patients to change. This change leads to an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain. Additionally, the brain's pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become sensitized. This means they can overreact to painful and non-painful stimuli.
There are many factors that lead to chis change including genetics, infections, or physical or emotional events. Risk factors include being a woman, having a family member with fibromyalgia, and having other disorders that affect tissues like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia
The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is described as a constant dull ache that lasted longer than three months. The pain must occur on both sides and above and below the waist to be considered widespread.
People with fibromyalgia often wake up exhausted, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Their sleep is disrupted by pain and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
There is a symptom called fibro fog which impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
There are other disorders that fibromyalgia co-exists with including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine, anxiety, depression and others.
Due to its impact on sleep, it's important that patients with fibromyalgia know their options when it comes to managing fibromyalgia. Below are some ways to help mitigate pain and increase the amount of sleep you're able to get.
There are certain medications out there that target pain keeping you up at night. Some of these may help with sleep quality, and there are even extended-release versions of the drug that may do a better job easing pain for more and better sleep. However, everyone is not helped, or helped enough by medication. Speak with your doctor to see if there is a medication that could work for you and try it out for the recommended amount of time. If you aren't seeing any results, then make sure to share that with your physician so you can try a different medication or treatment.
Treating other symptoms
There are often other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia that can affect sleep. A common one is restless leg syndrome (RLS). Restless leg syndrome is a feeling of sensation in the leg throughout the night that makes it hard to go to sleep. This sensation can be a tingling or a prickling feeling that is hard to ignore.
By treating this syndrome, fibromyalgia patients may find some relief when sleeping. Also some fibromyalgia patients have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes temporary cessations in breathing while sleeping which can disrupt your sleep and lead to other health problems down the line. Sleep apnea and sleep problems associated with fibromyalgia are so similar, that treating one may help to treat the other.
Exercise is a great treatment option for patients with fibromyalgia. Regular exercise is an essential part of the fibromyalgia treatment, but the timing is very important. Daytime workouts can help to improve nighttime sleep. But, too much activity within 3 hours of bed time could cause you to be too energized to go to bed.
Listening to music before bed can enhance sleep. In a 4-week study, people with fibromyalgia could adjust the sound and how long they listened, evening replaying it in the middle of the night if they woke up. Everyone heard the same mix which was music to help promote sleep. This study shows that by having music with certain beats that promote sleep, this may be another way to help relax your brain and body enough to get some decent quality sleep.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a therapeutic technique that can help reduce the severity of symptoms in fibromyalgia patients. The brain is very powerful in terms of wellness, so by exercising control over it, you can help help reduce the activity that can be causing some pain and discomfort.
CBT can be used for fibromyalgia-related insomnia. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. CBT can improve alertness and thinking ability and lessen anxiety. If you're stuck in a negative thought cycle about being unable to sleep because of the pain which then makes the pain worse and further disrupts sleep, CBT may be the perfect tool to help reverse that cycle.
Healthy sleep habits
Sleep hygiene is the routine that you do before bed to help improve your sleep. By having good sleep habits and a good sleep routine to help prepare you for sleep, you may be able to train your body to start winding down for bed. It's similar to sleep training for infants and toddlers.
You can start by deciding on your sleep and wake time and trying to adhere to that everyday. Then you can move on to your environment and make sure that you have a room that promotes sleep - no electronics, comfortable sheets, no excess light, cool temperature.
After curating your sleep environment, it's important to make sure your activities leading up to sleep also promote sleep. This includes avoiding stimulants like coffee and caffeinated teas as well as alcohol. Honestly reducing liquids in general may help to reduce your bladder load and chance of you needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Also avoid late night activities that keep your brain activated. Working super later or reading or watching a thriller can activate certain hormones and neurotransmitters that are counterproductive to sleep. You want the hours leading up to bedtime to be purposeful towards helping you sleep.
If you struggle with fibromyalgia and cannot get enough sleep, then please click the orange button below to take a free sleep test and get in contact with a professional.