Last month, we reported some exciting news about the link between fibromyalgia (FM) and the importance of sleep, particularly getting to the deep sleep stage. However, we did not discuss the various strategies that YOU can use to improve your quality of sleep. Let’s take a look!
Establishing a consistent and better sleep pattern is essential in managing the complex symptoms associated with fibromyalgia (FM). By doing so, you may experience reductions in pain, fatigue, and “fibro fog.” Think of a flashlight. As the batteries wear down, the light becomes progressively dimmer and soon goes out. To recharge our batteries, we must sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders, and 60% of adults report having problems sleeping a few nights per week or more. Also, more than 40% of adults have daytime sleepiness that interferes with activities of daily living, and nearly 70% of children in a study reported they had problems sleeping at least one night a week. The “bottom line” is WE MUST SLEEP to be healthy!
- Sleep ONLY as much as you need to feel refreshed the next day. Limiting the time seems to improve sleep quality while excessive sleep leads to fragmented and shallow / poor quality sleep.
- Keep a sleep diary and write down how you slept each night as well as any triggers that interfered with your sleep. Review the notes from time-to-time to remind you of strategies that worked in the past.
- Keep a strict sleep schedule when possible. Get to bed, and more importantly, wake up at a regular time each morning. A regular arousal time strengthens our circadian cycle and leads to a more consistent time of sleep onset at night.
- Use relaxation therapies such as gentle massage, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and more, all of which can boost sleep quality.
- Cut down on noise, particularly sudden loud noise (trains, planes, automobiles, etc.) by soundproofing the room or using a noise machine. Your sleep can be disturbed without you waking up or having memory of it in the morning.
- Avoid long daytime naps as these interfere with nighttime sleep.
- Keep the room temperature cool.
- Hunger can be also disturb sleep, so a light snack of carbohydrates at night can help in this regard.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evenings as both disturb sleep.
- Consider herbs/vitamins/supplements such as 5-HTP, Melatonin, St. John’s Wart, SAM-e, L-Carnitine, Probiotics, and more.
Remember, the goal is to get at least four hours of continuous sleep in order to reach the deep sleep stage. If this is not accomplished over time, the intensity of the FM symptoms can increase.
The management of FM is best when approached from multiple directions: nutrition, exercise (especially aerobic), many of the 10 “tips” described above, and care rendered by a “team” of healthcare providers from disciplines such as chiropractic, massage therapy, and primary care. Because FM is complex with no single cause, a multi-directed treatment approach seems to work best. Remember, doctors of chiropractic focus on structure, exercise, nutrition, and whole-body health. They also work with other health professionals on a regular basis when managing the needs of their patients.