So, are you sleeping at night? If you have chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia the answer is most likely "no". Difficulty sleeping and waking unrefreshed are hallmarks of both disorders. I have recently done more research on the subject and I was surprised to find out that so much is known about fibromyalgia related sleep disorders. The National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) provides some basic information about this unique sleep disorder, but a Web site that provides the most comprehensive information about fibromyalgia and all the difficulties encountered with this syndrome can be found at www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org If you would like to read specifically about fibromyalgia related sleep disorders you can access that information at www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_sleep_disorders.html It seems that people with fibromyalgia have what is called an alpha EEG anomaly. An EEG (electroencephalogram) is a test that involves place electrode patches on the head using adhesive and recording the brain waves. An EEG is a component of a sleep study. Alpha brain waves are normally seen when the brain is more alert. People with fibromyalgia and CFS have alpha brain waves when they should be going into a deeper sleep stage so sleep is interrupted. In addition 80% have sleep apnea, 20% - 40% have Willis-Ekbom disease (80% of these people also have periodic limb movement disorder), and 75% have temporal mandibular joint disorder (TMJD), which is bruxism or teeth grinding. People with TMJD generally have increased face, neck, shoulder and back pain.
So what came first? The chicken or the egg?? It is thought when people have pain that interferes with sleep they have a greater opportunity of developing fibromyalgia. I know this was true for me. I was injured in a lifting accident and damaged my lower back, including my back ligaments, and my neck was also damaged. The result was severe lower back, upper back, and neck pain, and I had severe headaches and leg pain too. My arms were doing pretty well at that time! I was obviously having a lot of difficulty sleeping especially since my doctors failed to give me any assistance with pain management. After about a year with severe pain it was as though a switch had been flipped. I suddenly was so exhausted and yet I couldn't sleep. When I did finally sleep I would awaken and not feel refreshed . . . it was as though I hadn't slept at all. When people are unable to get a good night's sleep, any pain becomes more amplified and so a vicious cycle begins. I was initially diagnosed with CFS, but that has now turned into fibromyalgia. Women are more apt to have pain interrupted sleep than men. That mechanism isn't well known at this time, but that correlates with the greater number of women with fibromyalgia compared to men. I have not had a restorative night's sleep in 20 years.
Okay, so you probably want to know what to do about that. The first thing I want to caution you about is adding any herbal supplement to your medication regimen without first consulting your doctor. There is a possible life threatening condition called Serotonin Syndrome. This syndrome is caused by combining certain medications, which increases the serotonin level to a toxic level. In my search for definitive answers, I have not found any. I am scheduled for a sleep study in about 1 week so I will keep you posted about the results and any remedies that may be effective. There are so many products currently on the market boasting that their product will lead to restorative sleep. It is easy to run up a big bill trying all these products in an attempt to find something that actually works. All I know is if we could all get a good night's sleep it would work wonders and we would all be in a much happier place! Sleep tight tonight . . .