We’ve all experienced it. You go to bed tired and ready for a good night’s sleep, but your mind simply won’t shut off. As the hours tick by, you’re still awake and becoming increasingly anxious about getting enough sleep to be rested for the day ahead.
Your anxiety then keeps you awake even longer. By the time the sun comes up, you’ve either gotten no sleep or so little sleep that you go through the day exhausted.
You anxiety ramps up again as you hit the pillow the next night—will you ever be able to get any rest? Insomnia is something that everyone has dealt with from time to time. For people who suffer from fibromyalgia, insomnia is a very common symptom.
Why Is Insomnia So Common with Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disease that causes widespread pain and extreme fatigue on a chronic basis. The relationship between fibromyalgia and poor sleep patterns is multi-faceted.
One simple reason that people with this condition have trouble sleeping is because pain can interfere with your ability to get rest.
As anxiety is also common with fibromyalgia, this is another factor that can play into interfering with one’s ability to sleep. Lack of sleep can increase pain and anxiety levels, so this can create a bit of a cycle.
Another reason that people with fibromyalgia have increased instances of insomnia is the way that fibromyalgia affects the brain itself. Researchers have found that those diagnosed with fibromyalgia have trouble falling into the deepest stage of sleep known as delta sleep.
A person who doesn’t spend any time in the delta stage of sleep can sleep for hours on end and wake up feeling exhausted.
Researchers also found that people with fibromyalgia experienced more frequent arousals and had a higher incidence of restless leg syndrome than those without the disease.
Their incidence of sleep apnea was also higher, causing restless sleep or slumber with frequent awakenings.
How Can I Get Some Rest?
Doctors who work to treat their fibromyalgia patients’ insomnia report that getting better rest affects their symptoms positively, overall. There are a variety of ways to combat insomnia.
Working with your doctor to find an effective medication regimen can help you finally get some sleep. Your goal will be to control your pain as well as fall asleep.
Although your doctor will decide which medications are best, many people report that they have found relief from newer medications such pregabalin (Lyrica) that help control pain and can also help the patient sleep.
Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may also be helpful in calming your mind enough to get rest.
Have Good Sleep Hygiene
Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Stay away from all screens (phones, laptops, tablets, even television) an hour or so before bedtime and don’t bring them into bed with you.
A couple of hours before you go to bed, take a hot bath or shower. This will increase your body temperature, and you will naturally begin to become and relaxed and sleepy as your body temperature falls.
To relax and wind down in the hour or so before bedtime, read (not on a computer or tablet), meditate or listen to soothing music.
Make your sleep space a sanctuary that is quiet, comfortable and stress-free. Try a machine that plays white noise or gentle nature sounds as a way to soothe your mind and mask any background noise as you slip off to sleep.
If you lay there for half an hour and can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed and worry about how you can’t sleep. Get up and do something quiet for a while. Read, make a cup of tea, or listen to music. Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to sleep; your body will sleep when it gets ready.
When it does sleep, however, only sleep as much as you need to recharge for the next day. If you overdo sleep, you’ll throw your sleep cycle off and create problems drifting off the next night.
During the day, take a short nap if you absolutely need it, but don’t nap for long periods. Again—you want to keep your sleep cycle regular.
Manage Your Anxiety
This is often easier said than done, but insomnia and anxiety can be a frustrating cycle, and anxiety and fibromyalgia often go hand-in-hand. Some people find relief from anti-anxiety medications.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also helpful to help you change thinking and behavioral patterns that may be negative or harmful.
Meditation can also be helpful (and since we discussed it as something you can do in that hour or so before bedtime, it’s highly suggested).
You will have to experiment with different meditation techniques to find which one works best for you. Some people find it hard to sit still and meditate and prefer a walking meditation and others may prefer a sitting, breathing meditation. Both kinds of techniques are linked to below.
No matter what malady we are experiencing, doctors always tell us to exercise. The same holds true for fibromyalgia and insomnia.
You should always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen; he/she will determine what is safe and may help guide you to a program or a trainer that will be helpful for your individual condition.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the running track at high-speed; especially for those with fibromyalgia, gentle exercise such a yoga or tai chi may be helpful to stretch sore joints and muscles and make them more flexible.
Whichever exercise regime you choose, the benefits will not only be felt physically. Exercise will help you relieve tension and stress. It will also help reduce anxiety.
The positive benefits may take time to be apparent, so don’t get discouraged. Making exercise part of your overall fibromyalgia/insomnia treatment is an excellent long-term strategy.