About 75 percent of all patients with fibromyalgia report problems with sleep. The following are ways you can improve your chances of getting a good night's sleep:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try to get to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day — even on weekends and vacations. Each individual has an internal clock, or "circadian rhythm," that guides bodily functions such as sleep. You can help set your own internal rhythm by going to bed at a regular time each evening and rising at a regular time each morning. You can upset this rhythm when you take daytime naps or travel across time zones. If you work at a job requiring ever-changing shifts, such as nursing, or if you have young children, establishing a regular sleep schedule may be difficult, but it should be a goal.
- Avoid daytime naps. The fatigue from fibromyalgia often leads to a yearning for naps, but naps usually result in a person getting less satisfactory sleep at night. If you are going to take naps, keep them short, 20 to 30 minutes, and take them before 4pm.
- Eliminate foods and drugs that may be stimulating within six hours of retiring. Avoid coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate, all of which contain caffeine. Tobacco, too, can alter sleep patterns, so quit smoking. Be aware that some drugs, such as over-the-counter cold remedies, nasal decongestants and asthma medicines, can stimulate the nervous system and prevent restful sleep as well.
- Avoid alcohol. Even though it can make you feel sleepy, drinking alcohol around bedtime also can disturb sleep.
- Reserve your bed for sleeping. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. By creating a place you come to know as a place for sleep and dreams, you can help make the bedroom more relaxing. Watching television, performing mundane daily tasks, or having stressful conversations with your spouse or partner can all bring sleep destroying stress into the bedroom. Do these things in a different part of the house.
- Use a fairly firm, but not hard, mattress for maximum comfort. Some fibromyalgia sufferers find propping themselves up with pillows or sleeping with a curved neck support pillow helpful. Also, adding a foam “eggcrate” layer between the mattress and the sheet improves comfort for some.
- Time your exercise. Regular daytime exercise can improve nighttime sleep. But avoid exercising within 3 hours of bedtime, which actually can be stimulating, keeping you awake.
- Wind down before bed. Avoid working right up to bedtime. Do relaxing activities, such as listening to soft music or taking a warm bath, that get you ready to sleep. (An added benefit of the warm bath: It may soothe aching muscles.)
Tips derived from the following articles:
“A cost-effective approach to the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia,” by G.A. McCain, Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, Controversies in Fibromyalgia and Related Conditions, Vol. 22, No. 2, May 1996, pages 323-349.
“Recognizing fibromyalgia,” by R.M. Bennett, H.A. Smythe, and F. Wolfe, Patient Care, March 15, 1992, pages 211-228.
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Last updated: 5/13/2022