My husband loves to sleep and nothing in the world takes him away from his sleep. I tell him that this is the reason he is healthier than I am. I believe that one more hour of sleep would greatly benefit me, but because of the person I am, I am constantly running in multiple directions. My husband says I am going to run into a brick wall if I don’t slow down and he is probably right. I often tease him and tell him if I only could get one hour of the sleep he gets, I am would be less grouchy and easier to put up with.
Sleep is something that I have the most difficulty adhering to when it comes to my health and as I write this section of the post, I feel like a hypocrite because sleep and I aren’t actually the best of friends. Before my diagnoses, I was living on six hours of sleep at night. If I was lucky, I would get seven or eight and that worked when because I was focusing on school, my career and my family. But then, I got pregnant and shortly after delivering, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Then, a good night’s sleep became difficult with so much happening in my life and the pain and stress were in addition to being a new mother. Most people with fibromyalgia complain that they have trouble sleeping and no matter how much sleep they get, they feel restless.
Sleep problems that are associated with fibromyalgia include insomnia, difficulty failing asleep and frequent awakening throughout the night. Restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are also associated with fibromyalgia. People with FMS say that they wake up day after day feeling exhausted and having no energy. Usually, they are more tired in the morning and try to nap during the day to ease fatigue. In addition, it is not usual for those with FMS to have trouble concentrating because of a condition called “fibro fog.” Some research shows that the constant pain of FMS causes sleep interruption. Other research shows that there evidence that FMS is related to abnormality of deep sleep.
To get better quality sleep, a FMS or chronic pain suffer should consider how sleep affects their symptoms. These recommendations come from WebMD .
• Sleep only as much as needed to feel refreshed and healthy the following day, not more. Curtailing the time in bed seems to solidify sleep. Excessively long times in bed seem related to fragmented and shallow sleep.
• Keep a sleep diary. Write down how you slept each night and triggers that may have interfered with your sleep. Reviewing your notes over several weeks may give you insight into your sleep problems.
• Have a regular time to wake up each morning. A regular arousal time helps strengthen circadian cycling and leads to regular times of sleep onset.
• Use relaxation therapies. A gentle massage, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques are all generally considered beneficial to managing fibromyalgia and boosting restful sleep.
• Exercise regularly (but avoid exercising three hours before bedtime). Exercise may exert its beneficial effect by promoting a deep level of sleep (non-REM sleep).
• Sound-attenuated bedrooms may help those who must sleep close to noise. Occasional loud noises for example, aircraft flyovers disturb sleep even in people who are not awakened and cannot remember them in the morning.
• Avoid daytime naps. Napping in the afternoon interferes with nighttime sleep.
• Keep the temperature in your room cool. An excessively warm room disturbs sleep.
• Hunger may disturb sleep; a light snack of carbohydrates may help sleep.
• Avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evening. They both disturb sleep.
A doctor can prescribe a prescription for sleep medication but since we are discussing natural methods, we can talk about natural supplements to help with falling sleep at night and getting better quality sleep. There are several herbal sleep aids that can help.
Chamomile comes from nature and is probably one of the oldest and gentlest herbal sleep aids out there. You can drink it as tea because it has a mild and pleasant taste. In addition to promoting restfulness, it can also be used for stomach irritations. The good thing about chamomile is that it can be taken often and is mild enough to be used daily. There is no addiction factor and it has no side effects. Allergies, however, can be a concern if a person is allergic to daises. Experts do not know how chamomile works to induce sleep but they believe that apigenin, a flavonoid in chamomile, may be the chemical that promotes sleep, but there is a possibility that other components are involved.
Valerian is root that also been long used but it smells like old socks. It can be used to help with occasional sleeplessness but it’s helpful for long turn use. Many studies have shown that is safe and an effective method of promoting sleep and patients report less anxious and nervous behavior and that they get a better night’s sleep. The only concern may be that high doses can cause nausea, dizziness and headaches.
Melatonin is a chemical that our bodies produces at night and is often called the “sleep hormone” because its role in healthy sleep. As a supplement, it can be taken as a short term sleep solution and it is helpful to patients trying to wean themselves of sleep medications.
SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) is an amino acid derivative that is normally found in the body. It is typically used as an antidepressant but can be used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome or as an herbal sleep aid. It helps the body to promote healthy sleep cycles, and can be taken daily for several weeks.
There are many other natural and herbal sleep aids out there and the choices can be quite overwhelming. When deciding on which works for you, you must understand that some supplements are meant for occasional use while others can be taken long term. Further, many supplements offer additional benefits so you can take one supplement to meet several needs. You can also check with a naturopathic physician, a dietician, or a herbalist to help figure out what natural sleep aid works best for you.
To be continued…stay tuned for part 4 where I will be discussing positive thinking and taking control of your health. I was also asked to discuss personal relationships and intimacy as it relates to chronic illness so look for that post in a week or so.
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