Sleep disturbance is one of the major symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is also probably the most annoying symptom as well. You want to fall asleep because you’re fatigued, exhausted, and in pain, so you just want to sleep the pain away. Then, on the flip side, you’re in so much pain, and you dread the night of tossing and turning, attempting to get comfortable enough to grab a few hours of sleep. Or are you one of those sleepers that doesn’t have a problem falling asleep, but you wake at four o’clock in the mourning finding yourself unable to finish the night? Or perhaps you wake up exhausted even though you slept all night and wondered why you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. Whichever category of sleep disturbance you find yourself in, I’m sure some of the following tips will prove to be helpful in improving your sleep.
Why do we have insomnia as fibromyalgia patients? According to the book The Everything Health Guide to Fibromyalgia, by Winnie Yu, “Pain is one of the leading causes of insomnia, so it should come as no surprise that peoples with fibromyalgia are often victims of poor sleep.” Doctors aren’t quite sure if fibromyalgia is the cause of sleep disturbance or if a lack of sleep is the cause of pain. In my personal experience, I think that it’s both. But, there are some additional factors that can contribute to insomnia. Let’s examine a few.
1. Medications - Medication side effect can contribute to a lack of sleep. Fibromyalgia patients are put on a cocktail of medications for pain, fatigue, and depression. Some common medications used to treat these symptoms can cause insomnia. Read the drugs side effects or ask your pharmacist if your medication is contributing to your insomnia.
2. GERD- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease - GERD contributes to sleep problems because of the acid from the stomach moving into the esophagus. This feeling is worse than regular heartburn. If left untreated, it can erode the esophagus and increase the odds of cancer. If you don’t think that this can sit you straight up in the bed in the middle of the night, just ask my son who was born with GERD (yes, babies can have it too). Those 1:00 A.M. “colicky” nights was actually a newborn with GERD. This went on until he was five months old and was given Zantac and Propulsid to put in his bottle.
3. RLS and PLMS - Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movements During Sleep-
RLS patients feel a crawling sensation in their legs, mostly at night, and they feel the urge to move the legs to alleviate this feeling. PLMS is more of a jerking of the legs that done involuntarily during sleep. Both conditions will disturb your sleep, and you may need to consider treatment options for these conditions.
4. Sleep Apnea - A person may have sleep apnea if he gasps and snore during sleep. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive apnea in which something like your tongue or tonsils are blocking your airway. According to Dr. Patrick Wood in the video, Fibromyalgia Show Me Where It Hurts, a patient will not make improvements in their fibromyalgia unless the sleep apnea is treated. So, an overnight stay at the hospital may be worth the effort.
5. Bruxism - Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of your teeth while sleeping. This usually occurs during periods of stress. Often, a person doesn’t know that he’s grinding his teeth until the mourning when he wakes up with jaw pain. Or during a trip to the dentist, the dentist discovers wear and tear found on the teeth. Or worse, this grinding can lead to TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, a painful condition that causes stiffness and pain in the jaw.
These separate conditions are all associated with fibromyalgia, and knowing what to look for can help you to rule out a problem that could be causing your insomnia. So, consult with your physician if you suspect that any of these illnesses could be worsening your sleep. Medication may be all your need to get your sleep back.