Did you know that chronic pain is the number one cause of insomnia?
That probably doesn’t surprise anyone who suffers from fibromyalgia or any other invisible illness. The link between pain and inability to fall asleep is a predictably strong one, and unfortunately it tends to domino. If someone gets a poor night’s sleep, they feel worse the next day. After a day of heightened pain levels, any spoonie is exhausted and ready to hit the hay… but when they try, their pain prevents them from falling asleep or sleeping soundly. And the cycle continues.
Here are five key tips for alleviating the exhaustion cycle associated with fibromyalgia.
1 – Stick to A Routine
Sleep hygiene is like other forms of hygiene–consistency is key!
It’s fine to experiment with your schedule, otherwise you’ll never know if nighttime journaling is more effective for your relaxation than meditation, or vice versa. Perhaps even both…?
But once you have an idea of what your mind and body respond best to, try to stick to those routines. Often we start out feeling fantastic about a certain life change, but it peters out by week two or three. If that happens to you, don’t feel guilty! It happens to everyone. Simply restart the habit you found to be helpful.
2 – Calm Your Mind
The optimal evening routine can vary from person to person. After all, fibro warriors come from all lifestyles and walks of life, which only makes the community stronger.
Here are some potential additions to your late afternoon or evening routine that have been known to help a lot of people with FM:
- Keep a worry journal – Does your mind race back and forth between various problems and concerns at night? It might help to get them out a few hours before bedtime. But once you’ve put them on paper, try to leave them there.
- Keep a gratitude journal – On the flip side of that coin is gratitude! Living with chronic pain is hard, there’s no question about that. But expressing gratitude can be emotionally soothing and even distract from physical pain. Every day has something to be thankful for, whether it’s a fibro-friendly meal or cuddles with your pet. Putting your focus on those little joys can help calm your mind and body.
- Listen to a relaxation playlist – Music can be used to invoke a desired emotion or state of mind. What songs make you feel peaceful or calm? White noise can be beneficial too.
- Try essential oils – Many people have found that essential oils help them relax. Diffuse them in your bedroom, dab some on your temples, rub some on your feet, or spritz a little on your pillowcase before bed. Some oils that can help sleep include:
- Clary sage
- Peppermint (however, some people find the opposite! Its refreshing properties can be soothing OR invigorating.)
- Get Ready for the Next Day – One of the things keeping you awake might be your to-do list for the next morning, so it can help to move part of that routine to the late afternoon. Picking out the next day’s outfit, meal prepping, and finding ways to help ensure the next day goes smoothly can be empowering and get some of the physical and mental “clutter” under control.
- Meditate or Pray – This is of course a personal topic, but prayer and/or meditation can help make you feel calm, grateful, and at peace– all of which are ideal pre-bedtime emotions.
- Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night – This can be hard to do, but keeping a consistent bedtime is an excellent strategy for having more control over your body’s internal clock.
That being said, there are some exceptions to Rule #7, and to sticking to the same routine in general. This leads us to our next tip…
3 – Deviate If Needed
Sometimes rules are made to be broken!
Trying to force sleep can have the opposite effect. If bedtime rolls around and you’re not tired, it’s better to knit or read something lighthearted than to squeeze your eyes closed and lie there frustrated. Hopefully you will get tired from the soothing activity, but if you simply can’t sleep at all, it’s best to get up and do something else. That way, you won’t begin to subconsciously associate your bedroom with insomnia.
The same thing goes for every other sleep hygiene tip listed in the previous section. If seeing your fears on the physical pages of your Worry Journal has started making you feel more stressed, or your peppermint oil has started making you feel invigorated instead of tired, don’t hesitate to cut things out of your routine. Just because they worked in the past doesn’t mean they work now.
4 – Keep Cool
Your body temperature actually lowers when it begins the sleep process, so why not give it a little help?
Try lowering the temperature in your room to 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit before heading to bed. Observe how you sleep over a weeklong period of the cooler temperature. You may need to experiment a little bit to find your personal definition of “perfect bedroom temp,” but as a general rule, people sleep better in cooler environments.
Bonus: You may need more blankets, and many people find the extra weight soothing!
5 – Exercise Smart
Exercise and fibromyalgia are a complicated duo. Even for those who process pain differently, exercise is an important part of life, health, and wellbeing. Strengthening your body helps encourage its natural healing process, plus the endorphins can improve your mental clarity and mood. However, there are certain things that must be kept in mind when approaching physical activity.
Here are some tips that can help make exercise a sleep helper rather than a sleep hindrance:
- Exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Evening workouts can wind you up and make it harder to sleep.
- Try low impact aerobic activity since it’s easier on your joints.
- Try walking. This underrated form of exercise is often perfect for people with chronic pain. The fresh air is a nice mood-booster, too!
- Try yoga or light stretching. In fact, gentle yoga is an exception to the “no working out 4-6 hours before bedtime” rule. The body-mind practice can help you unwind and release any worries before bed. However, a challenging evening yoga class at the gym or a yoga studio isn’t usually the best idea in the evening, and perhaps not at all.
- Don’t overdo it. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past an appropriate level of challenge. The last thing any spoonie needs is a sports injury on top of the existing pain!
If it’s in your budget, you could even hire a personal trainer, physical therapist or other expert to get you started. That being said, we know chronic pain can get expensive! We recommend checking to see what your insurance covers, and always directing exercise questions to your physician.
We hope these tips have you well on your way to sounder sleep and sweeter dreams!
If you have fibromyalgia and live in the Orlando area, you may want to consider participating in a clinical trial. These sleep tips wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the progress of modern medical knowledge, and clinical trials are the way every new tip or treatment begins. Clinical trials need your participation, even if you have a condition other than fibromyalgia or are completely healthy.
Not only are trial volunteers today’s superheroes, they are also able to access free top notch medical treatment in a state-of-the-art facility. If you’d like to know more about our fibromyalgia clinical trials right here in DeLand, please fill out the short form on this page or give us a call at (386) 785-2400. We look forward to fighting fibro with you!