Sleep disturbances are very common in people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Most people with fibromyalgia have sleep complaints - the most common is a feeling of non-refreshing or non-restorative sleep.
Non-refreshing or non-restorative sleep is the feeling sleep has not been refreshing, even when a person has slept. And non-refreshing or non-restorative sleep causes mental, physical and cognitive problems.
One 2017 meta-analysis of several studies reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research finds people with fibromyalgia experience lower sleep quality and efficacy. Moreover, they have long wake times when they awaken in the night, shorter sleep duration, and lighter sleep, compared to others without fibromyalgia.
Insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, affects many people with fibromyalgia. And the risk for restless legs syndrome – a condition characterized by the need to move the legs, especially at night - is ten times higher for people with fibromyalgia, this according to a 2010 report in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The incidence of sleep apnea in people with fibromyalgia is 61%, this according to one report in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder where breathing, while sleeping, repeatedly starts and stops.
Coping With and Managing Sleep Issues
Finding a solution to your sleep issues aren’t going to cure your fibromyalgia, but getting better quality sleep will reduce pain and fatigue. Moreover, your body needs a good night’s sleep to repair damaged tissues, receive essential hormones (i.e., cortisol, which is responsible for maintaining blood pressure and blood sugar), and to help you concentrate and reduce fibrofog during the day.
Some ways you can get better sleep with fibromyalgia include:
- Antidepressants. For some people, low doses of tricyclic antidepressants, such as Amitriptyline, can help with achieving a deeper sleep. These types of drugs make you feel tired, so they should be taken close to bedtime.
- Turning off the electronics. Watching TV or surfing the internet will boost electrical activity in the brain and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Exercise. Light exercise can help you sleep better at night.
- Herbal supplements. Melatonin can reset your body’s natural rhythm and make it easier for you to fall asleep whereas valerian can help with insomnia and ease stress and anxiety. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement to make none interfere your other medications.
- Better mattress. If you are not sleeping on a mattress that promotes a good night’s sleep, you should get one. Do your research and find a mattress to help you sleep better.
- Prescription sleep medications. There is a variety of FDA approved sleep medications your doctor can prescribe to help you sleep better, including Lunesta and Ambien. These should be considered as a last result, as they come with side effects.
Your doctor can help you find additional solutions to help you sleep better at night to reduce other fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibro fog is the term used to describe the cognitive impairments people with fibromyalgia experience. For many, this probably one of the most stressful symptoms because it affects memory, conversations, and difficulty trying to focus and learn.
Fibro fog symptoms make you feel as if your brain is foggy, and they can occur at any time, with varying intensity. These symptoms are the worst when you are midst fibromyalgia flares.
Fibromyalgia flares are periods where symptoms increase in number and insanity. Flares may happen without any warning, but most of the time, they are triggered by stress or some other trigger. Flare periods can last anymore from a few days to a few weeks.
Fibro fog affects both men and women with fibromyalgia, but these symptoms tend to affect women more. These episodes of cognitive impairment can last days or weeks.
It is one of the most underappreciated symptoms of fibromyalgia in that doctors don’t put enough emphasis on recognition or treatment. If you experience cognitive impairment – especially for long periods - with fibromyalgia, you should bring this to your doctor’s attention as this a sign your fibromyalgia may not be well-managed.
Symptoms of fibro fog including:
- Short-term memory loss, which includes forgetfulness
- Difficulty with language, including holding conversations, understanding directions, and expressing thoughts
- Struggling to recall simple numbers and letters, and with transposing them.
- Trouble retaining new information
- Difficulties with focus and concentration
Coping With and Managing Fibro Fog
You can manage and cope with fibromyalgia by:
- Using a calendar. You can keep track of appointments, either with a paper calendar or on your computer or smartphone. Set alarms on your computer and phone to remind you to make a call or where you need to be.
- Having a routine. Routines help when you are struggling with fibro fog. If you do something the same way each time, it is easier to remember when experiencing cognitive difficulties.
- Getting organized. It is hard to concentrate when you have too much junk. Removing clutter from around your workspace and home is a good way to cope with and control fibro fog, and reduce the potential for falls or other accidents.
- Not multitasking. It is hard to concentrate you are experiencing fibro fog so do one thing at a time and pace yourself. It is better than trying to do it all at once and failing miserably.
- Managing stress. Stress causes fibro fog and worsens it. Do what you can to keep your life stress-free, and learn relaxation exercises, such as meditation and deep breathing, for when things seem overwhelming.