With every single one of my patients, my very first questions is, “How are you sleeping?” If they say “not good,” I know what to work on first. Multiple studies show that inadequate sleep worsens health and creates more problems. So to get better, it really is that simple.
The majority of patients with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome have not slept through the night in many years, thereby getting worse as time goes by.
The type of sleep that is needed is delta-wave sleep, which is referred to as restorative sleep. This is when the body repairs itself with the human growth hormone (HGH) and other various hormones that repair damaged (or malfunctioning) tissues, muscles, and organs. Delta-wave sleep also works to restore and rejuvenate the immune system and helps to make deposits into your stress-coping account. As discussed in a previous post, the stress-coping savings account is where you store certain chemicals that help the body cope with both mental and physical stress.
Most patients with FMS or CFS take tranquilizers or sleep aids to help them get some shut eye, but these medicines, along with the pain, do not promote good restorative sleep. In fact, they can prevent it.
Inadequate or poor quality sleep leads to several problems including:
- Worsening FMS and CFS symptoms
- Daytime fatigue
We always hear that everyone needs 8 hours of restful sleep each night, but this is not necessarily true. The amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person. For example, children and adolescents need an average of 10-12 hours a night, while older people need an average of 6 hours. So, if you are not getting 8 hours, but you are feeling refreshed and restored in the morning, then you need not worry too much.
Poor sleep in otherwise healthy individuals can create symptoms similar to those found in FMS and CFS patients.
In one particular study, college students were denied REM sleep for a week, and they each developed symptoms like diffuse pain, depression, fatigue, irritability, stomach problems, headache, and anxiety – all symptoms of fibromyalgia. Additionally, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine performed a study on 50 women with FMS and found that a poor night’s sleep exacerbated their symptoms, but then those worsening symptoms prevented adequate sleep, creating a vicious cycle of declining health.
The Endocrine Society in San Francisco did a study in 2002 which found that lack of sleep actually increases inflammatory cytokines by 40%. These are the very chemicals that cause pain!
Additionally, not only are the inflammatory chemicals increased, but HGH is reduced, which causes even further debilitating symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, cognitive dysfunction or fibro fog, and decreased muscle mass. This is because the body is not able to restore necessary hormones and chemicals without deep, restorative sleep. About 80% of HGH is produced during delta-wave sleep, so it’s no surprise that the levels are reduced in those who go long periods of time without adequate sleep.
Sadly, most of my patients have tried multiple sleep aids that only turn out to work for a short period before losing its effectiveness all together. These medications can actually prevent deep stages of sleep, as well as deplete your sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin.
The medications that actually do promote deep, restorative sleep include: Ambien, Elavil, Trazadone, Flexeril, and Lunesta; however, these medications come with potentially serious side effects and will lose effectiveness over time. All may cause fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and depression.
The question is not “which drug would be best for me? “The question should be, “what am I deficient in that is preventing me from sleeping?” By figuring out which natural chemicals and hormones are deficient in your body, you can then determine which supplements will get you into a better sleep cycle that will help to restore you back to better health.
We cannot hope to completely reverse FMS, but we can reverse the symptoms by helping you to sleep better at night and restore your body’s natural functioning chemicals and hormones. It’s not as complicated as you may think. Keep in mind that it may take some time to figure out which supplement(s) works best. Remember that you will never have a sleep drug deficiency, but you may very well have a melatonin or serotonin deficiency, and this is where to start.
The thing about restoring health to a functional level, especially if you have suffered with FMS or CFS for many years, is that it’s not about making one change at a time, but a complement of changes.
Don’t expect to be able to take just one supplement and return to optimal health right away. I wish it was that simple, but we all know it’s not.
Better sleep is your first goal to restore health, however. Start with 5htp and or melatonin and begin to work in better diet and exercise routines as you start to feel more refreshed during the day. You can also start to introduce supplements like a high-quality, high-dose multivitamin into your daily regimen as well. You will never be at 100%, but you will definitely feel a lot better than you have been… all because the most important thing you need is as simple as a good night’s sleep.
You can read more about the importance of deep sleep and the protocols I recommend at https://yourfibrodoctor.com/sleep-disorders/
Or even better for an in depth, step-by-step “how to” guide for restoring deep restorative sleep, invest in my Fibromyalgia and Deep Sleep Program series. https://yourfibrodoctor.com/sleep-disorders/
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