Sleep, sleep tips, hygiene and tips to help you sleep with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Framework Series Four – Sleep: Sleep research, sleep hygiene, sleep tips

Welcome to part four of the Fibromyalgia Framework Series! I hope you’re enjoying this series and have come to join the conversation in Melissa (You) vs Fibromyalgia Facebook group.

The fibromyalgia framework series has been presenting my (evolving) view of managing fibromyalgia. In 2018 some of my strongly held theories were proven true by experience and research. I’ll share this with you.

We have discussed: 

The Fibromyalgia Framework – with your free framework template!
Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis and Fibro Books
Tracking Your Progress

Sleep, sleep tips, hygiene and tips to help you sleep with fibromyalgia

My newsletter subscribers have been getting access to this content first along with exclusive freebies, if you want early access to the fifth part of the framework – sign up here.

SLEEP WITH FIBROMYALGIA

Sleep is huge. I had theorized that sleep was a crucial missing component in my healing journey for a long time. Research is starting to bear this out. Doctors specializing in and writing about fibromyalgia know it. It still hasn’t trickled down to most practitioners.

Once I began low dose naltrexone I started to sleep in more than one hour blocks. Getting restful sleep has been the basis of all the improvements I experienced over 2017 and 2018 despite having tiny children and a third pregnancy.

SLEEP RESEARCH

There’s a lot of research about the sleep issue in Fibromyalgia and chronic deep sleep deprivation is no friend to our pain, fatigue or brain. We can do quite a few things ourselves to impact our sleep, but sometimes we need a doctor to step in and help. I am very lucky that a locum GP I saw once noticed my history of being very tired and not sleeping well and put me on amitriptyline. This was before I was diagnosed so I’m unsure if he suspected Fibromyalgia or not. This was the only way I could get any sleep for years. That doesn’t mean it helps me to sleep well or that I don’t have a list of sleep hygiene rules that I live by.

Dr Ginevra Liptan, MD, writes about sleep in her book The Fibro Manual (2016):

Sleep studies show that Fibromyalgia subjects show abnormal ‘awake-type’ brain waves all night long, with reduced and interrupted deep sleep and frequent ‘mini-awakenings’ (Brandi 1994; Kooh 2003). This deep-sleep deprivation leads to pain, fatigue, and poor brain function (Lerma 2011; Moldofsky 2008; Harding 1998). Treatment focused on increasing deep sleep is the key to improving all these symptoms.

In plain terms, people with Fibromyalgia don’t tend to reach stage four of the sleep cycle (the deep, restorative stage), and therefore, they suffer from chronic, deep sleep deprivation, which causes all sorts of issues with the body: pain, fatigue, fog, anxiety, etc.

In his article, 8 Tips for Better, More Effective Sleep (n.d.) (available on the Paleohacks website), Casey Thaler explains that sleep deprivation is “very similar to speeding up the process of dying of old age.” No wonder we feel like fibromyalgia is progressive – our bodies are progressing toward death until we take the sleep problem seriously.

In a talk in 2013 Dr Jacob Teitelbaum said the defining way to separate fibromyalgia from any other cause of widespread pain and fatigue is to ask how well they sleep. If a patient sleeps with no trouble, according to Teitelbaum, they don’t have fibromyalgia. His SHINE protocol puts sleep at the beginning of the treatment. Without sleep, we can’t get better. I would agree. Both of Teitelbaum’s books have resonated with me and his treatment approach gels with everything I have experienced. Without the sleep LDN was able to give me, I would never have begun to experience the rest of the improvements. Though I do wonder, of the large percentages of people in his studies that are lots better or better after the SHINE protocol, what that “better” means for them. For me, my quality of life is currently hugely improved, but I still definitely have a chronic illness that impacts me all day, every day. We might have different definitions of improvement.

Based upon my reading of the research, books by my favourite fibromyalgia authors and my experience, my number one recommendation to anyone suffering from chronic pain or similar illnesses is to get your sleep.

MY SLEEP HYGIENE TIPS

alarm-alarm-clock-analog-1162967 attribution fre

Go to bed and get up around the same time each day.

  • Manage pain – take prescribed medicines as directed.
  • Pacing during the day so you are not over-exhausted.
  • Don’t have caffeine after lunch.
  • Have a wind-down routine (that doesn’t involve technology).
  • Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day.
  • Adjust your bed to your needs (i.e. suitable mattress, mattress topper, the right pillow, weather-suitable blankets).
  • Adjust your room to your needs (i.e. the right temperature, dark etc.)
  • Eat a small protein-based snack before bed.
  • Have a warm bath with Epsom salts.
  • Dab lavender oil on temples, wrists and/or feet.
  • Do a body scan meditation.

EXTRA SLEEP HELP

Once you have tried the above sleep hygiene tips, it might be worth exploring natural sleep options such as:

  • Lavender essential oil
  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Lemonbalm
  • GABA supplement
  • CBD oil (if it is legal where you live)
  • Magnesium

If you have been struggling to sleep for a good while, have tried all of the sleep hygiene and natural options available it is time to discuss options with your doctor.

  • Melatonin
  • 5 HTP
  • Low dose naltrexone – do your research, take it to your doctor, but please note that for some it causes insomnia.
  • Stronger sleep aids for short term use, under strict medical supervision.

This article from Dr Teitelbaum might be of use for further sleep help.

Sleep is one area where we really need our doctors to be on board. If yours is not, then try to find another one.

My sleep logs and sleep hygiene tips

You can purchase your Sleep Hygiene Tips sheet, My Sleep Hygiene Plan and My Sleep Diary templates from my Etsy store to help you get started today on improving your sleep.


My newsletter subscribers have been getting access to this content first along with exclusive freebies, if you want early access to the fifth part of the framework – sign up here.

Impatient? Want to work through the content now? The Fibromyalgia Framework Workbook is available to purchase, with all of the templates (freebies and templates recommended from my Etsy Store) with space for notes to work through the content as a course. Find the Fibromyalgia Framework here (digital). Find it physically here.

Please note that some of my links are affiliate links and I may make a commission at no extra cost to you.

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You vs Fibromyalgia eCourse my research your plans to fight chronic pain chronic fatigue and insomnia

You vs Fibromyalgia Equipping You to Fight

I am super excited to announce that I am running You vs Fibromyalgia: Helping You Fight Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia full eCourse!

 

You vs Fibromyalgia eCourse my research your plans to fight chronic pain chronic fatigue and insomnia

While my micro course You vs Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge is a free introduction to some of the modules in the full course, it isn’t exhaustive. This course has a lot more information, so if you’re ready to dive in for more and create your own pain management plans, trial some sleep tips, learn about low dose naltrexone for fibromyalgia and more – then come and join us!

If you learn only one thing from anything I ever write, I hope it is that you can impact your quality of life. I have made a huge difference to my quality of life through research and personal trial and error. But it took a lot of time. I want to save you that time.

See below for my brief introduction video about You vs Fibromyalgia

I have just enough time to run this course before baby comes in November, so it won’t be offered again until next year.

The stats of the course aka what you get

  • Seven modules with
  • Short video lessons
  • Templates to make your own pain management plans, a sleep diary, a list for keeping track of the things you’d like to try and a form for working out how you could create some space and make the most of your life despite fibromyalgia
    information sheets
  • The workbook – with all of the lessons, information sheets, templates, heaps of extra reading with space for notes!

Between this course and my book Melissa vs Fibromyalgia: My Journey Fighting Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia (affiliate link) and my free resources pages – I am content that I have shared everything I can to help you not suffer as long as I had to. Obviously I am not a doctor and there are often more issues than just the fibromyalgia at play. A doctor and medicine definitely have their place in treatment, but I want to also share all of the things you can do yourself – today – to fight the fibromyalgia.

Yes, I am just as ecstatic to join the journey!

You vs Fibromyalgia: Helping You Fight Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue & Insomnia

I got a bit excited about sharing my knowledge and went ahead and began planning a full eCourse –
You vs Fibromyalgia: Helping You Fight Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia.

You vs Fibro full ecourse

It is for anyone wanting to fight chronic pain, chronic fatigue and insomnia. Most of my recommendations are self-actionable – you make choices every single day that effect your quality of life, so you have the most power to live well with Fibromyalgia.

It will have seven modules:

  1. Knowledge (knowledge is power)
  2. Pain management
  3. Sleep
  4. Meditation
  5. Yoga (or gentle exercise)
  6. Pacing and Boundaries
  7. Brain Fog

What you get:

  • Five modules
  • Four (or more) videos
  • Four templates to make your own plans for pain management, sleep and things to try
  • Four (or more) information sheets – including my list of further reading – this is from my spreadsheet of articles, research and information about Fibromyalgia/Chronic Pain/Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia over the past five years broken down by subject!
  • A lot of further reading for you to follow up areas that interest you and take your learning further
  • The workbook with all of the lessons, information sheets and templates with space for notes.

A course is a lot of work – there is a lot of information here, so I will run this course from 1 April 2018 if 10 people enroll before March 15th.

As a special offer, I will give early bird enrollments at $69 (value $125!) PLUS all early bird enrollments will receive the free bonus lesson Support.

You vs Fibro full ecourse

Learn more and enroll here (you can also see a free preview of the first lesson)

I hope you will join us in this journey.

 


If you’re not ready for a full eCourse, what else can you do?

you v fibro e courseTry my free micro course You vs Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge this is an introduction to the information available in five lessons.

 

 

sign up to newsletterSign up to my free resources page which has free PDF printable reports, templates, micro courses and more.

 

Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep – A Review

Night SchoolAfter reading The Whole Health Life I have decided to look into specific areas of my health in more depth, one at a time, at the moment it’s insomnia. One book recommended by Shannon Harvey is Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep by Richard Wiseman.

The research on sleep is fascinating. Based on answers around when we like to go to bed, get up and do our best work there is a table to sort us into chronotypes – larks or owls, (p41) I’m a “moderate lark”. Apparently larks are more likely to be introverted, logical and reliable while owls are likely to be extroverted, emotionally stable, hedonistic and creative. These would mostly hold true of my husband (an owl) and I.

What is also interesting is that I appear to follow the usual circadian rhythm, my body will start waking up at 7am, peak at 11am, decline to the lowest point by 3, climb and peak again around 7 with my body seeking sleep from 9. So I assume I just have slightly weaker ability to wake and sleep than others, while still following the natural pattern. I’ve filed this away for future follow up!

Another issue of timing is “social jetlag” for example during the week the owls will be tired from getting to work while their body wants to be sleeping. On the weekend (or any night for me!) When my owl of a husband wants to socialise I’m ready for bed. Causing each chronotype to suffer fatigue.

Wiseman references a lot of research. For example, in 2006 it was “estimated that around sixty million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder” (p57) and approximately a third of Americans now get less than seven hours of sleep per night. In a British study more than 30% of participants had insomnia or another serious sleep problem. With this setting the scene, Wiseman goes on to explain what happens when you don’t get enough sleep – spoiler alert, nothing good.

“Belenskys’s study reveals the highly pernicious nature of even a small amount of sleep deprivation. Just a few nights sleeping for seven hours or less and your brain goes into slow motion. To make matters worse you will continue to feel fine and so don’t make allowances for your sluggish mind. Within just a couple of days this level of sleep deprivation transforms you into an accident waiting to happen.” (P67)

After all the bad news around not sleeping enough, Wiseman shares his secrets of super sleep and they include include:

1. Create a bat cave
Dark and silent room, right temperature, safe, only sleep and sex in the bedroom.

2. Set up during the day
Nap right, exercise but not too close to bed time unless it’s gentle yoga, use your brain and energy, know when you’re tired (don’t ignore sleep cues, unless you are tired all day, then don’t ignore your bedtime).

3. Prepare for bedtime
Warm shower/bath, write out your worries, snack right, lavender (unless it gives you a headache!).

4. At bedtime
Counting sheep, happy thoughts, fake a yawn, try to stay awake (reverse psychology on your brain!), set up some sleep cues (I have an eye mask, the dark and gentle pressure on my eyes now cues me to rest).

5. In the night
Get up (unless you physically can’t), don’t panic – apparently we get more sleep than we think, relaxing in bed is good rest and the closest the list comes to recommending meditation is to suggest progressive relaxation (I do a body scan meditation when I wake).

Nothing here is new to me, but it is presented in easily actionable chunks, if you want a list of sleep hygiene to follow, this is a good one. I would add meditation, I can’t nap and even if I do it’s only after a long time of trying and I feel gross afterward. So I meditate. Sometimes, if all the stars align, after a 20-30 minute meditation I’ll nod off for 5-10 minutes and wake up feeling nicely rested (very unusual). I use guided meditation during the day, at bedtime and in the night I do a body scan meditation (I visualise each body part individually relaxing, sometimes I’ll imagine it’s warm and tingly and relaxed, other times I’ll just imagine each part in turn).

Again as I delve into the research around sleep I am flummoxed at the lack of worry the doctors I have come into contact with have shown for my sleep. They should know how desperately humans need it, let alone people with chronic pain and fatigue already. I’ll keep you updated if I find anything useful in my research and experiments.