Pain and sleep
Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia often have problems sleeping because of their pain. If your pain is causing you sleep troubles, you’re not alone.
Pain can stop you from getting the deep, restful sleep your body needs. During the night, we go through different stages of sleep: stages 1 & 2 (light sleep) and stages 3 & 4 (deep sleep). Studies have shown that patients who suffer from chronic pain conditions – like fibromyalgia – spend less time in the deep sleep stages.
Pain can also cause you to have difficulty falling asleep at night and to wake up during the night. All of these disruptions to your sleep can result in you feeling unrefreshed and fatigued when you wake up in the morning.
In addition, a poor night’s sleep can also make you more sensitive to pain the next day. And feeling more pain during the day can lead to worse sleep the next night, and so on. It becomes a vicious circle.
If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, you should speak to your doctor to choose the appropriate treatment to manage all your fibromyalgia symptoms. There are treatments for your pain that can help to break the pain-sleep cycle.
There are so many steps that people with fibromyalgia can take to manage their symptoms, from getting refreshing sleep to slowly starting to enjoy physical activity on a regular basis.
If you have fibromyalgia, getting proper sleep should be one of your priorities because it is essential to your health and can help you wake up more rested, refreshed and alert.
Did you know that between 60 and 90% of fibromyalgia patients have trouble sleeping?
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial. While you sleep, your body produces a hormone that actually helps heal muscles. A lack of normal sleep lowers hormone production, which can cause muscles to hurt.
There are a number of small things that can be done to help get a good night’s sleep:
Creating a calm and restful haven:
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress, ideally a firm mattress with pillow top.
- Find just the right pillow, such as a cervical pillow, that lifts your head and keeps your neck supported.
- Keep light and noise to a minimum.
- Keep your room tidy and uncluttered, so you are not distracted.
Preparing for sleep:
- Take a warm bath.
- Calm your mind and body with a quiet activity ½-1 hour before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol, sugar, nicotine, etc.
- Stop consuming caffeine at least 8 hours before bedtime. Remember – caffeine is found in chocolate and most sodas.
- If you have a hard time turning off your thoughts, try soothing music, relaxation tapes or repeating a mantra.
- If you have back pain, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach – it can put strain on your back and neck.
Getting some form of physical exercise on a regular basis – even if it is just a short walk down the block – is highly recommended for anyone living with fibromyalgia.
One of the unfortunate side effects of fibromyalgia is lower levels of physical activity due to pain. Ironically, however, getting into better physical shape is one way to help manage pain symptoms. It strengthens bones, muscles and cardiovascular health, as well as boosts energy levels, metal alertness and mood.
Before starting a physical activity program, fibromyalgia patients should consult with their doctor to decide on the right form of exercise for them. And remember – it is always best to start out slowly, progress at a comfortable pace and never overexert. That can mean simply walking for 1-2 minutes in the beginning and increasing over time. Even a slow start is a good start!
Different forms of physical activity have shown to offer positive benefits to fibromyalgia patients, including:
Walking is a great exercise with proven health benefits. It’s safe, not to mention inexpensive and easy to do almost anywhere. Plus, studies show that even low-intensity aerobic walking can help to reduce the severity of pain symptoms and improve your range of motion. All you need to get started is a good pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Biking, dancing and other aerobic activities are excellent ways to strengthen muscles. What’s more, patients with fibromyalgia report reduced tenderness when they engage in moderate-intensity exercise at least twice a week. Many aerobic activities also have the advantage of “getting you out of the house” to go for a bike ride or meet up with a friend for a class. Very therapeutic indeed!
Aquatic exercise can also be extremely therapeutic. The water creates resistance and therefore helps build muscle tone. Plus, it cushions the body, protecting it from the strain and impact that you might experience with other types of exercise. Whether you are taking a beginner aquafit class or swimming laps, aquatic exercise can help reduce the intensity of your symptoms and get you into shape.
Fibromyalgia patients who are interested in aquatic exercise should enquire about the temperature of the pool and the pool area.
Well-heated pools are best because the warmer temperature is less likely to aggravate symptoms – which means it is easier to stay committed to the activity.
Tai chi, yoga and stretching
Tai chi, yoga and stretching are all excellent forms of exercise for people living with fibromyalgia. They are low impact, involve slow, gentle movements and can be enjoyed at any level. Plus, they can help with relaxation – another great benefit.
Again, patients should start slowly and work their way up at their own pace. Beginner or advanced, they will feel their body become stronger and their joints loosen up more each time they exercise.
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