Guide to Bedding and Mattresses for People with Fibromyalgia
There is one thing those who suffer from fibromyalgia have in common: poor sleep. The causes of this aren’t completely known, and the solutions aren’t a perfect science, but there are ways to combat the unrestful sleep experienced by those who have fibromyalgia.
The cause is not hopeless, and trying to get a good night’s rest isn’t futile, but it also isn’t easy. In order to be well rested, those with fibromyalgia need to be conscious of everything they do a it relates to sleep. The first, step, however, is understanding the condition.
Table of Contents
- Which Sleep Problems are Common with Fibromyalgia?
- Fibromyalgia and Sleeping Too Much
- Is Restless Legs Syndrome Related to Fibromyalgia?
- Maintaining a Sleep Schedule
- Waking Up Right
- Getting Good Help
- Setting the Scene
- Avoiding the Screens
Technically, fibromyalgia is a syndrome, which means it’s a collection of different issues which all show up together. Specifically, it’s a musculoskeletal condition which is somewhat common. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia suffer from pain in their joints, terrible fatigue, tender muscles, a decreased pain threshold and emotional issues such as anxiety or depression. There aren’t necessarily different fibromyalgia types, but there are different symptoms and different kinds of pain experienced.
Individually, these aren’t particularly of note, as they could portend one of a great many diseases, but when they start showing up together, there’s a good chance fibromyalgia is the cause.
Other theories included low levels of serotonin, which is a chemical the body produces to keep you relaxed and feeling calm. There has also been seen an increase in a chemical called “substance P,” which makes the pain signals become further pronounced. It has also been suggested fibromyalgia could be caused by brain and spinal cord damage, or even by high levels of stress.
With our current understanding of fibromyalgia, it’s safe to say anyone can develop it. The majority of those who suffer from it, however, are women between the ages of 25 and 60. Women also appear to be 10 times more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men are.
This is another reason serotonin levels are considered to be a possible culprit. In men, serotonin is produced approximately 50 times faster. Since men produce more serotonin, they are less likely to develop fibromyalgia syndrome. Some theories even say it could be brought on by menopause or other hormonal changes.
There’s a chicken-and-egg scenario when it comes to the relationship between sleep and fibromyalgia. It is well documented that those who suffer from the syndrome suffer from a lack of good, restorative sleep. They tend to sleep too lightly and don’t hit the later stages of sleep. Because of this, the body tends to produce lower levels of serotonin, which we know can lead to the onset of fibromyalgia.
So, does a lack of good sleep, and thus a lower level of serotonin, lead to developing fibromyalgia, or are those things just a symptom of the disease? Right now, nobody knows for sure, but there is definitely a connection between sleep and fibromyalgia.
Who is at Risk?
There is also some belief that fibromyalgia is potentially a genetic disease, or can at least be passed on from a mother to a daughter. Since some have suggested our genetic makeup can have an effect on how we perceive pain levels, it is thought that certain genes may contribute to the development of the condition. Subscribers to this theory point to genes which have been found in common across fibromyalgia sufferers.
Those who have these genes, they say, won’t necessarily develop the disease, but once they are activated through an exposure to extreme emotion or physical stressors, they may kick on, changing the way the body reacts to physical pain.
Those who suffer from fibromyalgia run into several sleep problems. First up is insomnia. This can be a general difficulty with falling asleep, or can be waking up constantly throughout the night, and being conscious of it. Many people wake up during the night, but they’re likely to fall asleep again and perhaps not remember the event. Insomnia sufferers, including those with fibromyalgia, are more likely to wake up completely, ruining their hard-earned sleep.
Frequently waking up, even when you don’t remember it, is problematic also because it interrupts your deep stages of sleep. Sleep is composed of two main sections, non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep and Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The former is made up of three smaller stages, while the latter exists on its own.
In Stage One of non-REM sleep, you are just across the sleep line. Your eyes are closed, but waking you up would be very simple. You may only need to hear someone mention your name, for instance, or hear an unusual noise in your sleeping area.
Stage Two is slightly deeper, but still a light sleep. At this point, your heart rate begins to slow down as your temperature drops, preparing your entire body to hit the third stage and begin getting some real rest. As with the other stages of sleep, this part is important. The slowing of your heart rate is important for heart health.
Stage Three is where the body starts getting the real work done. If somebody were to attempt to wake you, they would have a tough time of it. Additionally, you’d be left feeling more than a little groggy because of waking from such a deep level of sleep.
During this stage, the body is growing, your blood pressure is dropping and everything starts to repair itself. This is also the stage in which fibromyalgia patients have the biggest issue. Since their mind appears to wake them up when it shouldn’t, they don’t spend enough time in this stage. This can lead to higher blood pressure, a feeling of extreme fatigue and more.
REM Sleep Stage
After Stage Three comes the REM sleep stage. In this, your mind becomes active, and your heart rate and breathing pick up speed. You also tend to dream a lot, thanks to the activity in your brain. Getting REM sleep is vital for proper health, but some fibromyalgia sufferers don’t often make it here.
There also may be some connection between fibromyalgia and sleep paralysis, but this hasn’t been researched in-depth at this point.
Because of the issues with connected to long stretches of sleep, namely the waking up during important parts, it is suggested those with fibromyalgia only sleep just as long as is required for them to feel rested. This is likely to vary with each person, but it would appear that keeping a shorter sleeping schedule seems to be more successful when the goal is restful sleep.
The longer the sleep, the more likely you are to feel tired. This is likely because of the constant interrupted deeper sleep stages. Repeatedly waking up during these moments can leave you feeling tired and unrested, and likely fatigued throughout the day. This condition is often called “fibro fog.” In this way, too much sleep can almost be akin to the relationship between fibromyalgia and sleep deprivation.
While suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome does not mean you suffer from fibromyalgia, many fibromyalgia syndrome patients do experience Restless Legs Syndrome. RLS is a neurological disorder which makes you want to constantly move your legs while trying to relax. This can be tapping your feet or simply shaking your legs, and it can be very uncomfortable. It can also be yet another factor when it comes to interrupted sleep.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to combat RLS, many of which are shared with getting a good night’s sleep in general. Specific treatments also exist, such as medications can greatly reduce the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. Some are common than others, such as dopamine agonists, while more extreme options also exist, such as opiates. Speaking with your doctor is important when combatting RLS, and combatting RLS can go a long way toward getting a good night’s rest.
Getting a proper night’s rest while suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome is not an easy task. Even when following all the tips we’re about to lay out, proper rest is not guaranteed, but incorporating these into your sleep routine could be the tipping point in finally being able to finally wake up feeling refreshed.
Many things which would help anyone get a proper rest can help those who have fibromyalgia, but they’ll likely need to be taken a step further in order to truly realize a night of restful sleep. Here are a few tips on how to get deep sleep with fibromyalgia.
For many, this is easier said than done. The world has become an increasingly busy place in modern times, and being able to get to bed at the same time every night has become something of a luxury. If possible, though, try to hit the hay as close as possible to the same time every evening, and try to wake up at about the same time every morning.
Doing this helps establish a rhythm to your sleep and begins to train your body to recognize when bedtime comes around. This is a technique often used by those who suffer from insomnia, which is fairly common among fibromyalgia patients, as we’ve learned.
According to one expert, the time you wake up is more important than when you get to sleep. “The time one gets up in the morning is a strong determiner of one’s next 24-hour circadian rhythm,” they state.
If waking up is one of the more important parts of sleep, waking up the right way becomes even more vital. A proper start to a morning includes sunlight and a little exercise. Exercising with fibromyalgia can be difficult, but this can be as simple as a short walk. Just enough to get the blood flowing and the brain properly awake. If natural sunlight isn’t an option, there are light boxes which exist to simulate natural light. These can trick your brain fairly well.
Waking up properly can put your into a good place to be able to fall asleep at a reasonable time the following evening.
Solving the root of your sleeping issues isn’t necessarily something you can do on your own. Sometimes you need to head outside your circle and look for help from a sleep expert. One such expert suggests having a sleep study performed. Doing so can see which specific problems may be causing your grief. Is it sleep apnea or Restless Legs Syndrome? Is it an active mind or something else entirely? Once the particular disorder can be pinned down, a specific treatment plan can be devised in order to achieve proper sleep.
Apart from medications designed to treat some of the more specific symptoms of fibromyalgia, sleeping pills can be a good way to get some sleep. While they won’t necessarily help with the increased sensitivity to pain, they will help you fill asleep faster, at least for a while.
One important tip always provided to those who suffer from insomnia is making the bedroom the best sleep sanctuary it can be. To do so, there is one major rule to follow: The bedroom is for sleep and for sex, nothing else. Those who find themselves unable to fall asleep in their beds each night often find themselves suffering from being a little too awake thanks to poor training of their body.
By training, I don’t mean exercise, I mean sleep training. By only using your bedroom for these two purposes, you’re letting your body know only two very specific things are going to happen once you lay down in bed. If it isn’t one, it’s the other, so falling asleep becomes fairly easy. If you spend a lot of time in your room watching television or just hanging out, it can be difficult for your body to recognize when it’s time to start winding down and getting into some proper deep sleep.
With the ever increasing usefulness of mobile devices, it is becoming harder and harder to go to bed without checking your email or scrolling through Facebook for a while. This, however, can be detrimental to your sleep. The digital screens emit the kind of light which increases brain activity more than it should. Making use of apps or phones which include “night shift” options can help with that problem, should using a device be either unavoidable or unacceptable.
These night modes tend to reduce the amount of blue light put out by the devices, making it more pleasing to the eye in low light. The warmer colors presented won’t get your brain going too much, allowing you to more easily drift toward sleep.
Each year, there are in increasing number of great mattress options for everyone, but finding a specific guide to mattresses for fibromyalgia can be difficult. As such, getting exactly what you need may take a little shopping and a little trial and error. What you should want, however, can be laid out.
Since going too firm and having too much pressure can cause pain, memory foam is a great option for anyone with fibromyalgia. The sinking effect caused by the viscosity of the foam makes sure pressure is even distributed across the body. Using something like an innerspring mattress, for instance, can apply pressure to different points on the body, causing pain in those areas. With a foam mattress, everything is sort of cradled and given equal support.
A medium density foam and a medium or medium-firm firmness are great things too look for in a mattress as they will make sure you are comfortable without placing too much pressure on your body and causing pain.
Should a new mattress not be an option, sometimes a mattress topper or pad can make all the difference. The best mattress topper for fibromyalgia is likely going to be a memory foam topper. These can be found at many retail stores and do a great job of transforming your mattress into one with more of a memory foam feel.
It should be noted, however, that this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule. Sure, a memory foam topper can give you a sinking and comforting sensation, but if the underlying mattresses is old to the point of springs poking into your back, it’s not going to do an amazing job. Anything, though, is likely to be an improvement over something like that.
When it comes to joint and muscle pains, heat has always been effective. The heat relaxes the muscles, which can certainly help relieve some of the pain caused by fibromyalgia. While there isn’t a specific fibromyalgia heating pad, there are some things you should keep in mind when looking to use one. Having a heating pad on at too high of a temperature for too long of a time can cause damage to your skin. Caution should be used when using a heating pad. Keep it under a blanket, and make sure it’s safe for use for long periods of time.
Many sufferers of fibromyalgia have found great comfort in using a weighted blanket. Typically, these have been designed to help with anxiety, particularly in children, but they have been found to help with some of the discomfort from fibromyalgia. Perhaps one can say it’s the best fibromyalgia blanket. People who use them find they help them stay more focused on the sensation from the blanket, rather than on any pain they feel. It may not be for everyone, but it’s something to consider.
Few things have an effect on sleep in the same way a good pillow does. When fibromyalgia gets involved, a good pillow can be the difference between sleep and quite a lot of discomfort. A couple of options are better than others, and they aren’t your standard pillow. One website which focuses on fibromyalgia suggests using a maternity pillow in order to reach more restful sleep. Using it as something of a fibromyalgia pillow, they have found it keeps their hips aligned, doesn’t need any repositioning and generally works to provide good pressure throughout the night.
They also compare it to people who use a total body support pillow for fibromyalgia, which is something commonly used. Often times they will place the large pillow between their knees, which helps keep things aligned, but they come with their own problems, such as their unwieldy size. A maternity pillow bypasses those problems.
Having to live with fibromyalgia is an unfortunate fact of life for a great many people, one which comes with a great deal of discomfort and, unfortunately, a severe lack of sleep. Fortunately, there are things out there which can help resolve some of the issues, or at least can help alleviate them to some extent.
It’s a long road to good rest, but making sure to create good sleeping habits and working to ensure any other fibromyalgia symptoms don’t interfere with sleep can make that road a little bit shorter.