Sleep Medications and Fibromyalgia

One of the most frustrating symptoms associated with fibromyalgia is disturbed sleep. Many fibromyalgia sufferers find that they have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. As a result, many fibromyalgia patients look to medications to improve their sleep habits. While not necessarily a permanent solution, sleep medicines can offer some relief for fibromyalgia sufferers.

What are Sleeping Medications?
Sleep medicine is specifically intended to help you sleep better at night. These medications may enable you to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, or feel more rested when you wake up. Sleeping pills are often referred to as sedatives because they sedate your brain and your body, allowing you to relax and fall asleep. There are numerous different types of sleeping pills. Some work for a long time in the body (these are referred to as long-acting sleeping pills) while others work for a shorter time (these are called short acting sleeping pills).

The Controversy: Why Prescribe Sleeping Pills?
There is a lot of controversy over the prescription of sleeping pills to people who have difficulties sleeping. Many sleeping pills and sedatives are habit-forming, and can lead to severe addictions. Persistent or long-term use of sleeping pills can cause your body extreme damage and can lead to devastating withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and tremors. For these reasons, many health care providers refuse to prescribe sleeping pills to some patients. Moreover, sleeping pills can eventually make sleep patterns even worse, disrupting the natural rhythm of the body.

However, sleeping pills can be very beneficial to people who have a known cause for their sleeping problems. If the cause of insomnia can be treated, sleeping pills may offer temporary relief of symptoms, allowing you to get some sleep. However, sleeping pills should not be used for more than 4 weeks at a time to avoid dependency.

How do Sleeping Pills Help Fibromyalgia?
Many fibromyalgia patients suffer from debilitating sleep disorders, including insomnia, nighttime waking, and non-restorative sleep. In fact, 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers report that their sleeplessness is debilitating. The short-term use of sleep aid medication allows many people with fibromyalgia to take control of their sleep patterns and begin to get some rest. Additionally, prescription sleep medication often helps to reduce the intensity of muscle pain and spasms that comes along with fibromyalgia, making life more enjoyable.

Types of Prescription Sleep Medicine
There are a number of different types of sleeping pills, including new sleep medications, which are available for use. Every type of sleep inducing medication is associated with different efficacy rates and side effects, so please consult with your health care provider before choosing a sleeping pill.

Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that have been available since the 1960s. They are commonly prescribed as both sedatives and pain relievers. Benzodiazepines work to calm brain activity down by working on a special neurotransmitter in the brain, called GABA. GABA is a chemical responsible for helping to sedate brain activity. Benzodiazepines actually increase the amount of GABA in the brain, allowing you to sleep, rest, or feel less pain or anxiety. Benzodiazepines have been proven to decrease the time needed to fall asleep and increase the time spent in deep, restorative sleep.

There are a number of different kinds of benzodiazepines, including temazepam, loprazolam, and nitrazepam. To help with insomnia and other sleep disorders, shorter acting benzodiazepines are usually used, as they are less likely to cause dependence. The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine for fibromyalgia sleep disorders is temazepam, which goes by the brand name Restoril. Side effects include: depression, headache, sleep disturbance, dizziness, and weakness. To minimize side effects and the likelihood of dependence, benzodiazepines should only be taken for a maximum of four weeks.

Imidazopyridines are newer sleep medicines than benzodiazepines, but they act on the same GABA receptors in your brain. Because they are short acting, imidazopyridines are less likely to cause addiction or tolerance, and therefore are being prescribed at increasing rates. The most common imidazopyridines include zolpidem, zopiclone, and zalepon. Like benzodiazepines, imidazopyridines should only be taken on a short-term basis. Side effects include: addiction, distension, nausea, vertigo, dizziness, nightmares, and skin rash.

Barbiturates are prescription sleep medications that work by suppressing activity in your central nervous system. They also help to inhibit nerve and muscle activity, thereby limiting pain. There are numerous barbiturates available on the American market, including: Phenobarbital, amobarbital, and butabarbital. However, barbiturates are not commonly prescribed for people with fibromyalgia because of the likelihood of addiction. Barbiturates also cause a number of side effects including: fever, sore throat, chest pain, wheezing, skin problems swollen eyelids and face, and muscle and joint pain.

Antihistamines are usually used to help relieve allergy and cold symptoms, however, they can also be used as sleeping aids because of the drowsiness they cause. Antihistamines are available as over-the-counter sleep medications, and include diphenhydramine and promethazine. Antihistamines should only be used on a short-term basis because they can cause side effects including: dizziness, headache, blurred vision, dry mouth, confusion, and excitement. Antihistamines are often used to promote sleep in the elderly.

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