Still Awake at Daybreak: Insomnia Increases My Fibromyalgia Pain

Still Awake at Daybreak: Insomnia Increases My Fibromyalgia Pain
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I watched the dawn break this morning. This is an unusual occurrence for me. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t arise at 5:45 a.m. to witness this phenomenon — I was still awake from the night before.

Sound familiar? Insomnia is the bane of my existence. Along with symptoms such as sleep apnea, unrefreshed sleep, fatigue, and tiredness, sleep issues are so common for those with fibromyalgia that the American College of Rheumatology included them in their revised 2010 diagnostic criteria.

There is a direct relationship between a decrease in the number of hours I sleep and an increase in my pain levels. The less I sleep, the more I hurt. This is not a guess; I’ve tracked these numbers for decades. I often use my charts to console my aching body and assure myself that the next day will be better.

Sunshine and exercise make all the difference to me. If I get my weary body out of doors to walk at some time near midday, my circadian rhythm resets itself. On those nights, I can expect six or seven hours of blissful rest before waking the following morning. Yesterday, despite a late morning walk, was an exception. The reason was a social event.

Last evening, I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with several fellow writers for BioNews Services, which publishes websites about diseases, including Fibromyalgia News Today. The experience was so mentally stimulating that even after going to bed, my mind continued to replay every word I’d heard. Having been born incurably inquisitive, I longed to be at my computer — researching, learning more about the folks I’d just met, the challenges they face, the issues we’d briefly discussed.

Well aware of the negative results of not sleeping, however, I stubbornly maintained my self-imposed “no electronics after midnight” rule. So, instead of learning, I spent the night speculating, and not sleeping, but dreading the next day’s discomfort. The result was no surprise. The harder I tried to sleep, the more wide awake I became.

Sometime after 2:00 a.m. I gave in and took a medication prescribed for such an occasion. As sometimes happens, it had no effect. Even worse, by this time, my body had rebelled against the many hours I’d lain supine. Pain was everywhere. With eyes still firmly shut, I got up, gently stretched, then assumed several yoga positions on the floor. Rather than the relaxation I’d hoped to induce, my eyes opened and remained that way. By 4:00 a.m. I’d abandoned all efforts to sleep. I opted to read but could not. Fatigue blocked my ability to concentrate on a plot. Convinced that my electronics curfew had expired, I turned to “Words with Friends.”

The sky visibly lightened. Daybreak was coming. Google announced sunrise at 4:45 a.m. Hooray! My sleeplessness had not been in vain. The reward for my unpleasant hours would be a glorious sunrise — lemonade after a long night of lemons.

I stared into the still dark horizon awaiting the first slit of sunshine. Soon other senses took over. Dawn’s silence was broken by the mockingbird’s song, followed quickly by chirps of winged relatives. A symphony of song filled the air. The intoxicating scent of jasmine wafted past my cheek on a soft breeze. Like reading a good book, the journey had now become better than the destination. And I was filled with gratitude.

Alas, the coastal marine layer —  known locally as June gloom — was too thick to allow me to view the awaited splendor. Rather than the brilliant colors I’d expected, I saw only shades of gray lightening from dark slate to pale ash. In retrospect, this was not a bad thing. Now, rather than dreading my next sleepless night, I’m curious to know what awaits me at dawn.

At last blissfully sleepy, I drifted off to three hours of pain-free nothingness. Yes, I’m tired today, and I hurt a bit more than I usually do. But, to my mind, life is all about social interactions. Each one is a thread in the fabric of our lives. I will choose another and another for as long as I can. And I’m willing to pay whatever it costs.

Every life has trade-offs. A fibromyalgia life just has a few more.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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