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

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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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