Few people are more aware of the importance of sleep than those with fibromyalgia. Even without clinical studies to verify that the lack of non-REM sleep (the stage during which muscles relax) is directly related to total body pain, we all know that if we don’t sleep, we hurt.
Sleep difficulties are so closely related to fibromyalgia that it was once considered to be a sleep disorder. For many patients, diagnosis and treatment of their particular disorder go a long way toward relieving their suffering. I wasn’t quite so lucky.
My husband reported that my snoring was becoming problematic for him, so I went to see a neurologist. Two sleep studies confirmed that I had sleep apnea, and a CPAP device was prescribed. Sadly, I awoke with a painful, swollen face after the first night of wearing it.
My unusually narrow nasal passages couldn’t handle all the air pressure from the machine. As a result, the air invaded my sinuses, producing this painful situation. However, for others I know, this device greatly improved their health and their marriages. It’s an option to consider — whether or not you have a bed partner.
Without the benefit of this treatment, I sought alternatives to improve my sleep, namely, meditation, exercise, and vitamin D. I have discussed in previous columns the forms of meditation that have been helpful for me. If mindfulness meditation with a focus on breathing seems impossible, try meditation using words or a chant.
For spiritual thinkers, Isha Kriya meditation is another possibility. When done at bedtime, it has improved my ability to relax and helped me to fall asleep more easily. It’s too soon to say whether this practice will have any long-term effect on my pain levels, but it’s certainly worth the recommended 48-day commitment.
For me, exercise and vitamin D requirements can be addressed together, solving two issues at once. The biggest challenge to doing this is that poor sleep contributes to daytime fatigue. Many days, just completing the chores necessary for survival is all I’m capable of doing. Motivation to exercise is in short supply. Here’s my solution:
My dog is the single best exercise motivator that I know. Who can ignore those pleading eyes when it’s time for his daily outing? We walk as close to noon as possible, when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are most available to help my body produce its own vitamin D. Eating foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, eggs, and mushrooms, also is a good practice, as is taking a supplement.
Whether your sleep problem is apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or another issue, it’s important to address it. Do whatever is necessary to make sleep a priority. The Arthritis Foundation recommends limiting caffeine, setting a regular bedtime, and reducing both exercise and electronics in the evening.
A Brazilian study I recently read about showed that passive body heating (in this case, immersion in a warm bath for 30 minutes, five times a week, for three weeks) had positive effects on the sleep patterns of women with fibromyalgia. These results suggest to me that a warm bath at bedtime may be helpful. Although it seems like a lot of effort at the end of the day, this activity may promote better sleep. On days I just can’t force myself to walk, an evening soak in the tub may be the perfect answer.
Improving sleep quality to ease symptoms is one of the few treatments that every fibromyalgia expert I know agrees on. We should all take advantage of it. Let Sleep Awareness Week, from March 8-14, be our call to action. Sweet dreams to one and all!
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.