Fibromyalgia and Sleep

fibromyalgia

An estimated 10 million people suffer from fibromyalgia here in the U.S., and up to six percent of the population worldwide have this condition, reports the National Fibromyalgia Association.  While the disorder does occur in men and children, up to 90 percent of people who have fibromyalgia are women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people are first diagnosed with fibromyalgia during middle age. Painful and baffling, fibromyalgia is a condition without a definitive cause, treatment, or cure.

Understanding Fibromyalgia

The two tell-tale signs of fibromyalgia are muscle pain and fatigue. People who have fibromyalgia report having “tender points” at various locations on their body. These tender points cause pain when pressed. Common tender points are between the shoulder blades, sides of hips, sides of the neck, top of the shoulders, back of the head, inner knees and outer elbows.

Other than muscle pain and fatigue, other symptoms and/or coexisting conditions of fibromylagia include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • tingling and numbness in hands and feet
  • frequent headaches
  • morning stiffness
  • endometriosis
  • painful menstrual periods
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • fibro fog (cognitive thinking and memory problems)

The pain associated with fibromyalgia (often reported as a dull ache) is typically widespread, occurring both above and below the waist.

fibromyalgia tender points

Fibromyalgia and Sleep Disturbances

Chronic and sometimes debilitating fatigue is a very real problem for fibromyalgia sufferers. People who have fibromyalgia  wake frequently during the night. It’s thought that these people’s brains are aroused by brain activity which disrupts their deep stages of sleep. In addition, fibromyalgia patients often have trouble falling asleep, mostly because their sleep is disrupted by their pain.  Either way, fibromyalgia sufferers miss out on the restorative sleep their body and minds need.

In some cases, patients who have fibromyalgia have other sleep-disrupting disorders, like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Patients not only complain of daytime sleepiness, but also feeling like they are in a fog.

Fibromyalgia Lifestyle and Home Remedy Tips

While it is important to follow your doctor’s orders regarding treating your symptoms of fibromyalgia, there are some lifestyle and home remedy tips that can help alleviate your discomfort.

  • Exercise consistently. Because you are in pain, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, low-intensity exercise conducted on a regular basis is a helpful natural treatment for fibromyalgia. Start slowly and build your intensity level and exercise sessions’ length of time. Along with daily exercise, be sure you are eating a healthy diet, chock-full of nutrients to keep your energy up.
  • Focus on sleep management. Because chronic fatigue is a classic symptom of fibromyalgia, it is vital to take steps for better sleep hygiene. Some tips include going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, as well as avoiding sugar, alcohol or caffeine several hours before bed. Try to limit your daytime naps. Make your bedroom environment a quiet retreat, and set your thermostat for the best temperature for sleeping. A hot bath before bed may pack a two punch: first, it will soothe your aching muscles, and second, it may help improve your sleep. Lastly, because of your painful “tender points”, be sure to sleep on a plush bed mattress that will minimize your muscle pain, including choosing the best mattress for back pain.
  • Reduce stress. Dealing with widespread pain and chronic fatigue is stressful enough, so try to make a good effort to avoid other stress triggers. Avoid physically overexerting yourself, and try not to overdo it. From time-to-time, this may mean saying “no” to events, when you know you’re overwhelmed. Consider doing deep breathing exercises or participating in yoga or mediation as other stress-reduction techniques.
  • Don’t over do it on your good days. With fibromyalgia, you’ll likely have “good days” and “bad days”. Try not to overdo it on the good days. In other words, keep a nice steady pace of activities.
  • Keep the joy in your life. When in pain, it may be difficult to do things that you enjoy or keep a positive outlook, yet that is exactly what you should do. Try to do at a bare minimum, one thing that you love and enjoy every day.

Because the totality of fibromyalgia is still a mystery, more studies are being conducted on the life-altering changes this painful condition can cause. It is hoped that in the near future, scientists will uncover the origin and effective treatments for fibromyalgia and its associated sleep disturbances.

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