Improving Sleep Quality

Have you been tossing and turning all night long? Do you wake up feeling unrefreshed and more tired than ever? Well, for the millions of fibromyalgia sufferers in America, this is a very common occurrence. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes widespread pain, chronic headaches, and persistent fatigue. The majority of fibromyalgia patients also suffer from sleep problems, which only exacerbate their pain and stiffness. If you have fibromyalgia sleep problems, don’t give up the battle yet. This article will provide you with some useful tips on how to sleep soundly once again.

The Benefits of Sleep

We often take it for granted, but sleep is actually one of the most important things we do everyday. Without sleep, we simply wouldn’t be able to function or enjoy life, and if we received no sleep at all, we would eventually die.

Sleep provides more than just a mental and emotional time out from the life’s stresses. Sleep is something that the body needs in order to restore itself. As we sleep, the body gets its chance to reenergize and fight off illness. During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormone, which is needed to repair lost and damaged cells and tissue. It also produces white blood cells that help the body combat foreign bacteria and other harmful invaders. Moreover, sleep gives our body time to produce neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate mood, hunger, and many other bodily responses.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can be very harmful to your wellbeing. Fibromyalgia sufferers are often chronically sleep deprived, because they do not get enough restful, uninterrupted sleep. Numerous studies have been performed to judge the results of chronic sleep deprivation. These results are astonishing, and prove how important sleep actually is to the human body.

People who are even deprived of even a few hours of sleep a night actually suffer huge consequences, including decreased mental efficiency, persistent sleepiness, and irritability. The findings get worse the longer sleep deprivation lasts. People who have gone without sleep for three days begin to suffer from loss of short-term memory as well as physical performance difficulties. At its worst, lack of sleep can cause hallucinations, severe mood swings, and aggression.

Stages of Sleep

When you go to sleep, you may not realize it but you actually progress through different sleep stages. These stages last for specific time periods, and your body will cycle through them throughout the night. During each sleep stage you brain activity changes – sometimes your brain is very active, while at other times it much less active.

Stage 1
Stage 1 sleep happens when you first begin to fall asleep. It is a very light form of sleep because it occurs as you transition between being awake and being in deep sleep. During this stage your muscles begin to relax, but your brain is still active. This means that you can be easily awakened. Stage 1 sleep lasts for about 5% to 10% of your total sleep time.

Stage 2
During stage 2 sleep, your brain waves begin to slow down, though you still experience occasional bursts of brain activity. Eye movement also begins to cease. Stage 2 accounts for 40% to 50% of your total sleep time.

Stage 3 and 4
Stages 3 and 4 are referred to as deep sleep, because your brain waves completely slow down. You have no muscle or eye movement during this stage. It is very difficult to awaken during this stage, and if you do, you will feel extremely groggy and tired. Deep sleep accounts for about 20% of total sleep time.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM)

REM sleep cycles occur about every 90 minutes. During this time your brain is extremely active, much like it is when you are awake. Your eyeballs will move and your heart rate and breathing may become irregular. It is during REM sleep that you actually experience most of your dreams.

Fibromyalgia and Sleep

The majority of people with fibromyalgia experience irregular sleeping patterns. As a result, they wake up feeling unrested and fatigued, and they often experience symptom flares. Many fibromyalgia sufferers also have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. This restless sleep can contribute to the pain symptoms of fibromyalgia, because it is during sleep that the body works to repair itself.

A number of fibromyalgia sufferers have difficulty sleeping because they have sleep problems that interfere with the stages of sleep. 80% of people with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep apnea, a breathing problem that causes them to wake up frequently during the night, preventing their bodies from cycling through all the sleep stages. A similar percentage is also thought to suffer from a disorder called alpha EEG anomaly. This causes deep sleep to be disturbed, preventing the body from releasing chemicals and hormones which aid in repairing the body.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have fibromyalgia and can’t sleep, here are some tips that might help you catch up on some snoozing:

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for the 4 to 6 hours before you go to bed. These are stimulants and can keep you awake when you’d rather be sleeping.
  • Try to go to sleep at the same time everyday. This will help your body to develop a natural sleep-wake schedule, making it easier to fall asleep. It will also help you to sleep better.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefits that a new mattress and pillow can offer. These products have a limited lifetime and won’t provide the proper support if they are overused.
  • Keep your bedroom clean, quiet, and dark. Take out your television and computer and don’t do any work in your bedroom. This will help you to associate your bedroom just with sleeping.
  • Avoid sleeping during the day, unless you are really tired. Daytime sleeping can disturb your body’s internal sleep schedule, making it impossible to sleep well at night.
  • Speak with your health care provider and find out if you have any specific sleep disorders that need to be treated. If you are having trouble sleeping, your health care provider can inform you about prescription sleep aids, though these should only be used sparingly.

See more tips on improving sleep quality.

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