By Donna Gregory Burch
How did you sleep last night? If you have fibromyalgia, your answer is probably not very well. I know the feeling! I’ve struggled to get a good night’s rest for years.
Unrefreshing sleep is one of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia. No matter how much we sleep, we still wake up exhausted. Multiple research studies have confirmed our disordered sleep. We don’t spend enough time in the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, and some studies have also shown that we have what are called alpha wave intrusions, which are associated with wakefulness, during the deeper stages of sleep.
“At this point, there are a lot of mysteries about why fibromyalgia patients don’t sleep well, why they’re fatigued and what causes this, but unfortunately the findings we do have don’t tell us very much about what to do about getting deeper sleep,” said Dr. Karl Doghramji, director of the Jefferson Health Sleep Disorders Center in Philadelphia.
Until researchers figure it out, there are a few steps we can take to try to improve our sleep quality. I reached out to three different sleep experts around the country and asked them to share their best advice for getting better sleep with fibromyalgia. Below are their most useful tips.
- Getting a good night’s sleep actually starts in the morning. “It is essential to either be exposed to natural sunlight or a light box, such as [the] goLite, for the first hour of waking up to be able to maintain a good circadian rhythm,” said Catherine Chua, behavorial sleep medicine specialists at Mt. Sinai Integrative Sleep Center in New York City. Going for a short walk or doing some light exercise in the morning can help stabilize the circadian rhythm, too. (Yes, I know it’s hard to exercise with fibro!)
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. “It’s critical for fibro patients to keep regular bedtime hours,” Doghramji said. “By regular, I’m emphasizing more the time they get up in the morning [and] not so much the time they go to bed at night. The time one gets up in the morning is a strong determiner of one’s next 24-hour circadian rhythm, including the time the person is likely to fall asleep the next night, so regularity is of critical importance. That applies to weekends and weekdays and vacations as well.” Continue reading…