Got fibromyalgia? Chances are you have fibromyalgia and insomnia. At the very least you probably deal with really crappy sleep. Insomnia for fibro patients means sleepless nights, tossing and turning, sometimes due to pain or discomfort. On other nights it’s due to racing thoughts. You probably also have problems simply falling asleep or even waking in the middle of the night, but unable to go back to sleep. And, of course, when you “wake” in the morning, you’re exhausted.
Maybe it’s because you have restless leg syndrome (RLS), which is very common among fibromyalgia patients. In fact, for some people, it appears that insomnia came first and then led to fibromyalgia. But there is so much mystery with fibromyalgia due in large part to the inconsistencies. That is to say, everyone’s fibro experience is different. And so is the reason they developed it in the first place. With that in mind, your insomnia probably looks different than mine, but it nevertheless effects 86% of fibromyalgia patients.
What causes insomnia when you have fibromyalgia?
Well, that’s a good question. Partly because it’s possible that insomnia can actually lead to fibromyalgia for some people. Furthermore, there are so many symptoms and conditions associated with fibromyalgia, that it’s almost impossible to determine the actual cause.
The National Sleep Foundation attributes the comorbidity of fibromyalgia and insomnia in patients to pain. “For people with fibromyalgia, the combination of pain and sleep disturbance is a double-edged sword: the pain makes sleep more difficult and sleep deprivation exacerbates pain. The good news is that reduction in sleep disturbance is usually followed by improvement in pain symptoms. This also highlights the importance of healthy sleep and to find a sleep professional in treating this disease.”
They reference a study consisting of deliberately sleep-deprived middle-aged women. Over the course of three days, their pain tolerance decreased while their pain and fatigue increased, “suggesting that such sleep disruption may play an important role in the development of fibromyalgia symptoms.” Many studies have been conducted to examine the connection between fibromyalgia and insomnia, as well as a myriad of other symptoms and related conditions. But nothing is conclusive. Again, we are back to the mystery.
What can I do for my fibromyalgia and insomnia?
The first thing you need to do it is have your sleep history thoroughly evaluated. You may be experiencing sleep disturbances without realizing the source. For example, for some reason sleep apnea affects many fibromyalgia patients, causing them to wake constantly because they aren’t breathing. Additionally, RLS is so disturbing to sleep that it is actually considered a sleep disorder.
Another issue to get checked for is verifying whether you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Or, worse yet…. both. In fact, you may be dealing with something else entirely, like hypothyroidism or other endocrine disorders. These will be treated in a very different way than fibromyalgia and that’s why it is important to officially rule them out.
Medications may be an option, but keep in mind that sleeping pills are not meant for chronic insomnia. A clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Mary Rose, explains that sleeping pills are only meant for short-term relief, often to get your sleep cycle back on track. Dr. Rose adds that she cautions her fibromyalgia patients struggling with good sleep against napping. Taking a nap during the day robs you of sleep at night.
Of course, there are other options that include making sleep a priority in your life. Dr. Natalie Dautovich of the National Sleep Foundation says that “making sleep a real priority can help you get more out of it.” She offers four tips to do this:
- Limit or avoid caffeine altogether
- Limit alcohol, especially at night
- Use medications when needed (Talk to your doctor about how and when to use them.)
- Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and imagery training
When I was 19 years old, I developed insomnia and that led to excruciating headaches. To make matters worse, I am highly sensitive and didn’t know it. All of this is likely tied to my fibro symptoms. I spent years trying various options to help me sleep. Of them all, the two that have worked most consistently for me are calcium (combined with magnesium for absorption) and valerian root. As long as I take one or the other, I usually have a relatively decent night of sleep. If I skip more than two nights of taking it, I’m awake for hours and hours. And I feel like death the next day. Have you found something that works especially well for you? Tell us about it, please!
The preceding article is from FibromyalgiaTreating.com and posted here for sharing purposes only. No copyright infringement intended. For additional information, please visit their website or consult your doctor.
As someone living with chronic illnesses, FibromyalgiaTreating.com is one of my preferred sites to follow. They’re consistent with factual information and supply hyperlinks for further browsing.
I shared the article above because it emphasizes the necessity to see a physician if you’re dealing with insomnia. Having a chronic illness and insomnia is not unusual but insomnia can be a sign of something else–and I found this out for myself in 2007.
The rest of the article annoys me. Below is the response I posted on FibromyalgiaTreating.com’s website.
I’ve found many articles with valuable information on your website – this isn’t one of them.
She may be a clinical psychologist, but Mary Rose cautioning her fibro patients against napping during the day is one of the most craptastic things I’ve heard yet.
I don’t believe I’ve ever met a fibro sufferer who took (or scheduled) regular naps. However, I have met many who spent 8+ hours in bed only to get two good hours of sleep–and I’m also one of that lucky group. We get up and attempt to go about our day, but at some point, the body is going to rebel. It wants sleep and it is going to win. Staying awake is not an option, no matter how busy or active you are. Someone who understands chronic illness with the added burden of insomnia would understand this and not issue such insipid warnings to their patients.
As for Dautovich’s advice to make sleep a real priority… is she making this up as she goes along? This type of ‘sound’ advice is what makes fibro sufferers leery of medical professionals. Everyone is listening… and not hearing one word we say. This type of ‘sound’ advice… and $1.79 will get you the large coffee at Burger King. But it won’t get you any closer to a restful night of sleep.
True, of the millions who suffer from fibromyalgia, it’s difficult to find just two people with the same symptoms. But you don’t have to be a medical professional to know there *IS* a shared component that encompasses the fatigue, pain, insomonia, appetite, motor skills and cognitive thinking. However, that component will remain hidden as long as patient concerns aren’t taken seriously; as long as empty words like “make sleep a real priority” are considered part of patient care, and as long as there are still physicians who refuse to recognize fibromyalgia as a ‘real’ illness.