One of the most common struggles for fibromyalgia patients is getting good, restorative sleep each night. This condition can severely affect a person’s ability to sleep well and wake up refreshed一no matter how long they’re in bed, most fibromyalgia sufferers will still wake up in the morning feeling exhausted.
This is because not enough time is spent in the deeper stages of sleep that are necessary to feel rested and improve wellbeing. Coupled with the pain that is a typical symptom of fibromyalgia, and patients find themselves in a terrible, never-ending cycle: pain impairs a person’s ability to sleep, and sleep deprivation in turn exacerbates the pain.
Little scientific research exists to explain how a fibromyalgia patient can reach deeper levels of sleep, but each year shows more resources applied to seeking out that knowledge. For the time being, we have compiled a list of ways that anyone with fibromyalgia can use to improve their sleep.
1) Stay Consistent
Keeping regular bedtime hours is critical for fibromyalgia patients to achieve some success in restorative sleep. Though most people may find that they want to go to bed around a similar time each night, of greater importance is waking up at a consistent time.
The time that a person gets up in the morning is a strong indicator of that person’s circadian rhythm over the next 24 hours, including the time that they will fall asleep the next night. This is true always, including weekends and vacation times.
If you’re traveling, do the best you can to adjust to the new time zone you’re in as quickly as possible. This post has some good information for people with sleeping issues on how to adjust to a new time zone.
2) Rise and Shine
Good sleep does not start simply when you lay your head down to rest. It’s important to be exposed to natural light or a light box within the first hour of waking up to maintain an efficient circadian rhythm. Even better yet, light exercise upon waking, like a short walk, is proven to be very beneficial to setting your internal clock. We know that all exercise can be painful for fibromyalgia patients, but research has shown that getting active works to alleviate some of the discomfort of fibromyalgia over time.
3) Study Your Sleep
It may not be fibromyalgia that is entirely at fault for the difficulty that you’re experiencing when trying to fall asleep. Common comorbidities in fibromyalgia patients include restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and periodic limb movement disorder. If you have experienced or are experiencing unusual movements at night, frequent interruptions during sleep, daytime drowsiness, breathing pauses or difficulty falling/staying asleep, these symptoms may be due to an issue other than fibromyalgia that you should discuss with your physician or sleep specialist. The treatment of these disorders can improve sleep overall.
4) Take a Nap
If this option is available to you, it can be beneficial to take a brief nap sometime in the afternoon after lunch. This shouldn’t be more than a half hour in length as you don’t want it to disrupt your ability to sleep later on. It will leave you feeling refreshed and capable for the rest of the day until bedtime.
5) Take Time to Wind Down
For a couple of hours prior to bed, take time to relax and unwind. Meditation is a great option for something like this, as is reading. Have a favorite book that isn’t full of horrific creature, exciting chase scenes or steam romance? Keep it by your bedside and read while winding down in bed. Other good ideas for pre-bed activities include calming music and a warm bath, as that will relax your muscles and reduce tension before you lay down.
If you’d like to learn how chiropractic care can help fibromyalgia patients relax, click here.
6) Remove Technology
Putting down the mobile device and turning off the TV are effective ways to signal to the brain that it’s nearly time for bed. In the couple of hours leading up to sleep, keep your surroundings as dim as possible. Drop the lights and distance yourself from technology. Light can often disturb the body’s circadian rhythm, so minimizing its influence will better prepare you for sleep.
7) Bar the Blue Light
Researchers and medical professionals have spent a lot of time in recent years studying the effects of blue light on human brains, especially in relation to sleep. They found that blue light, the kind emitted from computer screens, cellphones, and energy-saving bulbs, is the most disruptive artificial lighting at night. If possible, only use your cell phone at night with blue-light-blocking glasses on. (Inexpensive options are available on Amazon.) Android users can download apps that block blue light, and newer Apple devices include a built-in “night shift” mode. Amazon also sells blue-light blocking screen protectors for older devices.
8) Skip that Last Drink
Alcohol can be disruptive to sleep, so avoid indulging in it as you get closer to bedtime, and attempt to keep your drinking at a moderate level.
(Additional note from the doctors: for fibromyalgia patients, alcohol can be very taxing on their system. So they highly recommended limiting your consumption if you are living with fibromyalgia.)
9) Avoid Overindulging on Food and Liquids
Large meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep and cause indigestion, so they are best avoided when possible. Drink plenty of liquids during the day, but as you get closer to going to sleep, lessen your intake. You don’t want to have to make multiple trips to the bathroom all night long if you can help it.
10) Keep Your Room Dark
Make sure that your bedroom is as dark as you can make it. Light from alarm clocks or other devices should be covered or removed. External lights from porches or backyards should be turned off, and if you can invest in blackout or room darkening shades, do so.
11) Get a Quality Bed
The benefits of a great bed are plenty, especially for those who suffer from fibromyalgia and trouble sleeping. Investing in a quality bed can drastically improve sleep over time, not just in length but also in the speed that a person may fall asleep. Memory foam mattresses can be very gentle and accommodating to a person with fibromyalgia. Consider the classic memory foam or one of the newer producers, like Layla and Bear. Their body-contouring technology cradles your form and keeps your spine aligned, and most of these beds come with an internal cooling mechanism to keep you comfortable.
(Most likely, a firm mattress will be more supportive for the spine than a soft mattress. The doctors had to change their mattress to a firmer style in order to get their spines in better alignment. They recently went mattress shopping and it opened their eyes to how firm their mattress had to be to support the spine properly. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what material you use, it just needs to have the right firmness. Sleep Number mattresses are great but expensive.)
12) Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Relaxation techniques were developed to help people manage stress and the physical effects that accompany it. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing each muscle group to relax the body. Starting in your toes and working your way up to the head and neck, you can improve relaxation and become more attune to your body’s physical needs.
13) Use Chiropractic Care
More fibromyalgia patients are attempting to find natural relief from their pain, and many are turning to chiropractic care. Chiropractors are trained to identify areas of pain and realign a person’s system to reduce that pain and improve bodily function. This extends to fibromyalgia pain. Misalignment of the top two vertebrae can cause a torsion of the spinal cord, along with decreased blood flow, which can exacerbate pain in many patients, including those with fibromyalgia difficulties.
14) Get the Help You Need
Don’t wait around and suffer from pain that may have a remedy. Go see a doctor or a chiropractor to discuss your symptoms and the best options for treatment. Current Chiropractic is accepting new patients in the Brandon, Tampa and Valrico areas, and they may be able to help you find relief from your fibromyalgia pain.
If you are interested in learning more about fibromyalgia and the positive outcomes of chiropractic care, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our doctors.