Last month, we focused on how important sleep is in the management of the fibromyalgia (FM) and the relationship between sleep dysfunction and restless leg syndrome. Now that it’s clear that the sleep and FM pairing is so important, how can we improve sleep quality? As previously stated, sleep dysfunction is a consistent complaint among FM patients. Establishing better “sleep hygiene” can be one of the most important treatment strategies for those suffering from FM. This can help decrease pain, fatigue, and the “fibro fog” that is often impairs one’s the ability to concentrate and work efficiently. Listed below are some sleep strategies that work very well. All you have to do is try them!
- SLEEP QUANTITY: The advice is to only sleep as much as is needed to feel refreshed and alert the following day. Getting too much sleep does not equate to good quality sleep. In fact, reducing the time in bed seems to improve the quality of sleep, as excessively long periods of time in bed result in fragmented, superficial, or shallow sleep and doesn’t allow one to enter the deeper, restoring stages of sleep.
- KEEP A SLEEP LOG: Document the amount you sleep each night and pay attention to things that may have interfered with that night’s sleep. You will find that reviewing these notes over several weeks will give you strong clues as to the triggers that interfere with your ability to sleep so you can develop strategies to deal effectively with these sleep barriers.
- BE CONSISTENT: Establishing a regular time to wake up each morning as a consistent routine will help establish and strengthen your circadian rhythms, and a regular arousal time puts you on a consistent sleep cycle and leads to a regular time of sleep onset at night.
- USE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES: The use of relaxation therapies such as visualization, deep breathing, a gentle massage, and soothing background music or sounds are all great ways to boost restful sleep.
- EXERCISE REGULARLY: This sounds counter-intuitive but REALLY WORKS well! The KEY to exercise is to do this at least three hours prior to going to bed. Exercise not only “clears your head” but it provides a great way to reduce the accumulation of stress and exerts beneficial effects by promoting better, deeper sleep. Start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of a form of exercise that you enjoy and look forward to doing. Pilates, Yoga, Ti Chi, Qui Gong, water aerobics, walking in the woods, or working out at your favorite gym or health club with some pals are some options.
- BACKGROUND NOISE: Some FM sufferers really benefit from background “white” noise. Sound machines offer a variety of sounds that can help immensely!
- NO NAPS PLEASE: Avoid a daytime nap; however, if you have to “recharge,” keep the time short (no more than a 15-30 min. “power nap”). Long naps interfere with nighttime sleep.
- TEMPERATURE: Keep your bedroom cool; warm temperatures interfere with sleep.
- APPETITE: Consider a light snack rich in carbohydrates if hunger interferes with sleep.
- NO CAFFEINE: Avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evenings as they both can interfere with sleep quality and the ability to get to sleep.
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