Fibromyalgia (FM) is a medical condition known for widespread pain throughout the body and stiffness in the muscles and joints. In addition, sleep problems and chronic fatigue are usually present. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates that as many as 90 percent of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are middle-aged women. However, this condition affects people of all ages and genders. FM is often misunderstood and can be very confusing. It had a stigma in the past of being all in one’s imagination. Nonetheless, recent medical studies have proven this incorrect. It is a real condition impacting as many as 6 percent of people worldwide.
Fibromyalgia is a double-edged sword when it comes to pain and sleep disturbance. The pain you are experiencing makes sleep more difficult and not getting enough sleep makes the pain worse. However, you can take comfort in the fact that by increasing your sleep, you will most likely see an improvement in the pain you are feeling. This shows how important it is for those with FM to find ways to make their sleep more restful. This article will cover that and other ways to experience less pain with fibromyalgia.
Sleep Problems and Fibromyalgia
Researchers in the medical field are constantly trying to clarify how sleep disturbances link to pain. At this point, very little is understood. However, some key findings do prove sleep and pain to be linked. For example, a study observed patients after having surgery. They had disturbed sleep and less than normal REM sleep. As they began to recover, sleep seemed to improve. Another study observed people with a disturbance in their slow wave sleep (the deepest sleep stage). This study looked at a group of healthy middle-aged women after having slow-wave sleep disturbances for three days. The results? The women had lower pain tolerance and increased levels of discomfort and fatigue. This means that sleep disruption can actually have an impact on the formation of fibromyalgia. Even though those with FM often use sleep aids, these are often ineffective in helping them get the right amount of sleep.
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How to Get Better Rest When You Have Fibromyalgia
Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s rest. This may help improve your symptoms of FM.
- Stick to a good sleep schedule. It is good to plan on sleeping for eight hours. Most healthy adults need at least 7 hours of sleep but do not need more than 8 hours. The best way to get your proper sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day whether or not you have the day off. Being consistent in this way will help your body to get and remain in a good sleep-wake cycle. If you do not fall asleep 20 minutes after you lay down, get up, go into another room, and do something relaxing like reading or listening to soft music. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy.
- Keep an eye on what you drink and eat. If you go to bed hungry or too full, you may suffer. You should also avoid heavy or huge meals within a few hours of bedtime. Feeling discomfort may keep you awake. Also, avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine have a stimulating effect and can take hours to get out of your system. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first but may disturb your sleep later on.
- Limit daytime napping. Long naps during the day can interfere with your sleep at night. If you must take a nap, keep it to 30 minutes and do not do it late in the day. However, for those of you who work nights, a late-day nap may be just what you need to help you make up for the sleep you will be losing.
- Create a peaceful environment for sleeping. Your bedroom should be a place of peace and rest. That means keeping it cool, quiet, and dark. Any kind of light in the room may make sleep more challenging. This can include light-emitting screens and even alarm clocks with bright lights. You may want to get some room-darkening shades for your windows, and earplugs, fans, or other things that keep you relaxed and uninterrupted. Also, calming activities before bed can help, such as warm baths or relaxation methods.
- Take control of your worries. Try not to go to bed with a lot on your mind. If at all possible, resolve whatever issues you are dealing with before going to sleep. It may help to write down what is bothering you, and set it aside for the next day. Stress management may help. Start slow: get organized, set priorities, and delegate whatever tasks you can. Relaxation techniques can also ease anxiety.
- Exercise. Regular physical activity, even if it is something small, can promote better sleep, just not too close to bedtime. Spending time outdoors may be helpful, also.
Natural Help for Fibromyalgia
In addition to sleep disturbance, another thing seen to be an underlying reason for fibromyalgia is a misalignment of the top bones of the spine. The C1 and C2 vertebrae may be putting the brainstem under stress, causing it to send improper signals to the brain. If the brainstem is telling the brain that the body is in pain, when it actually is not, fibromyalgia can be the end result. Using a gentle method, we encourage the bones to realign themselves naturally without the need to crack or pop the neck. This results in improvement in communication between the body and brain. Fibromyalgia has been seen to ease up or even go away completely.
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