I firmly believe that one of the greatest things you can do to improve your current fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms is to get consistent, restful sleep. Dr. Teitelbaum’s website endfatigue.com encourages fibro sufferers to use his S.H.I.N.E. protocol (sleep, hormones, infection, nutritional supplements, exercise) I am in complete agreement with him that the first thing that needs to be looked at is sleep. I spent years and years in my teens without restful sleep before any other symptoms of CFS showed up. I often wonder if I had been proactive about my sleep,then perhaps I never would have gotten sick. I can’t dwell on those thoughts because they just produce anger and regret. It is what it is.
When I first got sick, I was bedridden for over 18 months. There are several things that put me on track to living a life out of bed and I believe that getting consistent, restful sleep was one of them. After my diagnosis, my doctor prescribed anit-anxiety medication for two reasons. One was because my panic attacks were pretty bad and the other was to hopefully produce a restful night’s sleep. I am not a fan of prescription medications. I avoid them, but sometimes they are necessary and this was one of those times. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to experiment with meds to find one that worked. I found success in both areas with the first med he prescribed for me. I stayed on it for two years and in those two years, I made great strides in finding a path to a life out of bed and finding a “new normal”. I truly believe that consistent, refreshing sleep was my big push in that direction.
I have struggled with debilitating insomnia in the past – not being able to fall asleep even when exhausted and not being able to fall back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night. I am a light sleeper and wake up at the slightest little sound. I also have struggled with restless leg syndrome which makes falling asleep very difficult. Over the years, I have been able to find solutions for each of these problems that help me overcome these challenges. It started with prescription medication, but currently I have been able to control sleep with supplements and lifestyle habits.
Here is a list of what I do to aid my sleep. It is tailored to me, to fit my personal needs, but I am hoping it will show you that having routines and taking the time to figure these things out about yourself can reap great health benefits and possibly a reduction of symptoms.
1. I don’t drink caffeine, EVER! A glass of caffeinated iced tea at noon, will keep me awake until 1AM. I am very sensitive to caffeine. I do eat and love chocolate though and that doesn’t seem to affect me as much as drinks with caffeine.
2. I use a LOUD fan while I sleep to drown out any noises that would waken me in the night. I have mommy ears, so I am very in tune to hearing my kids if they need me, but not to the other annoying noises that would keep me awake. When I travel, I use a white noise machine or earplugs. In college, I used earplugs consistently and they were a lifesaver. I can’t use earplugs at this stage of my life because the kids may holler for me, but I recommend earplugs for anyone else. They work GREAT!
3. Restless Legs – read my previous blog post about that one. Iron supplements and massage has worked well.
4. Meds for insomnia when first falling asleep. If I can’t sleep, I have discovered that taking something for the pain helps me to fall alseep. Even if I don’t feel like pain is the primary problem, taking an Aleeve will allow me restful sleep the majority of the time. I’m not sure why this works for me, but it does.
5. Insomnia in the middle of the night. I used to just lay there and lay there , tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, and hoping to fall back asleep. This would last for hours of frustration. Now, I get up and proactively do something to help me fall back to sleep. Eating carbs, self-massage to relieve pain, pain reliever, glass of milk, moving to the couch, etc…Doesn’t always work, but 9 times out of 10 it does.
6. Snack before bed. I instinctively have always eaten a snack right before bed. A content and full stomach makes me sleep better. This may work adversely for some people, but eating has always helped me sleep. It was just recently that I read Dr. T suggests this too. He says that eating protein before bed may stabilize blood sugars through the night. Dropping blood sugars may be why many people with fibromyalgia awaken in the middle of the night and then can’t fall back to sleep.
7. Supplements. I will blog about my supplements some other time and they have changed over the years, but currently I am taking a supplement to help me sleep. It contains a combo of melatonin, 5Htp, and L-Theanine. A very low dose seems to be helping me fall asleep.
8. Consistent bed time. I generally go to bed at the same time every night. This gets my body in a sleep rhythm. It also assures me adequate sleep. Nine hours is my optimum to stay ahead of a flare. Do you know what yours is? 🙂
9. A good, supportive, comfortable mattress. Read my blog post about my mattress. I say, spare no expense and get a mattress that allows you comfortable sleep. Make healing, restful sleep a top priority!
I still struggle with occasional insomnia and I never sleep straight through the night without waking, but for the most part my sleep has been restful. Aside from having newborns in the house that eat every 3 hours, I have had an extended period of time with refreshing sleep and I can say without a doubt that it does make a difference. When traveling and I don’t sleep well, I pay for it. It is an obvious connection for me. I encourage you to evaluate your sleep. Are you getting enough? Is it restful? Do you wake up refreshed? OK, refreshed is the wrong word, I know you probably wake up in pain, but do you feel like you slept well? If not, I encourage you to talk with your doctor and find a way to make restful sleep happen. Our bodies cannot heal without rest. It is so important!!!!
Anyone want to share your sleep experiences with fibromyalgia and/or CFS?