To Sleep or Not to Sleep…
Almost all of us have been there. And, if you are like me, I have tried pretty much every prescription medication and over the counter ones. As well as herbal options. (Important note – always ask your chemist if any herbal supplements will interact with your medications. 5-HTP is an example that can cause seratonin syndrome if taken with SSRI anti depressants.)
In fact, when I was taking Ambien (Zolpidem), I sleep ate, had conversations, even made hot chocolate whilst talking to my husband. Not completely all ‘there’. And I have read about many people experiencing driving and walking on this stuff. SCARY!
Oh, how we fibromites and CFS/ME peeps struggle with sleep. For people with fibromylagia it seems that the top issue after pain is insomnia, poor and restless sleep, let alone restful. And for people with CFS/ME it’s the fatigue and exhaustion that ranks top, followed by the pain.
Whatever is causing it…it sucks!
And if you have both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, well good luck to us, I say!
For me, for around 22 years (or so…but who’s counting) I have struggled with insomnia. When I handed in my first FibroMapp App report to my GP, that showed my sleep report. She was shocked. My report showed that on average I was up 14x a night and the longest duration of sleep throughout was 40 minutes!
I was actually in such a state of exhaustion and indeed desperation that I was actually EXCITED to go in for minor surgery, thinking that at least I would be knocked out and be able to sleeeeeep. (Wrong! I was awoken ever hour to have my blood pressure etc taken…).
The Pain, Poor Sleep and Depression Cycle
I am sure if you are reading this and know how it goes….you can’t sleep, your pain continues to escalate, you are exhausted, you’re becoming increasingly depressed….and the cherry on the sundae? Brain fog.
And then, to top it off even more, many of us end up playing the ‘medication roulette game’. You know what I am talking about. ‘If I take this pain med now, then at 3am in the morning, I am not going to have any left…do I take it now, or wait?’.
My big question was, when you are getting such minimal sleep, and medications are based on dosing within a 24hr time period, then when does one day end and the next start? (I attempted to try figuring this out as I knew that I was under and over dosing on my meds. I started keeping a tally. I failed miserably!). This in fact was one of the key aspects to our FibroMapp app – tracking medications and supplements as well as sleep and sleep debt.
Can’t Stop Thinking!
My husband and his ability to put his head on the pillow and fall asleep within minutes has always amazed me. A few months ago I asked him how he does it. He said, ‘I just don’t think about anything’ (!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I cannot fathom not thinking about anything!!!!! In saying this, the one thing that I am finding is helping me to relax a bit more is plugging my headphones in and listening to a sleep meditation app. (The one I find I like is called Sleep Easily by Shazzie – and it is also free! Yay!).
However…It May be Something on Your Night Table/In Your Bed…
…that is causing sleep disruption. Many of you might remember years and years ago that there was a study in regards to digital alarm clocks and the radio waves interfering with your sleep…Guess what, you now have digital technology with far greater radio waves than your old digital clock. Right beside your head when you sleep. How many of us use our phones for our alarm clocks? Or keep it beside your bed, charging away as well….yep. Your smartphones and tablets.
A sleep-deprivation study of nine men in 2001 showed that pain sensitivity increased 8% with a “sleep debt” of 40 hours (40 hours of lost sleep with no opportunity to recover). Even more interesting, letting them catch up actually had a much greater pain-relieving effect — “greater than the analgesia induced by level I analgesic compounds.”*
Time to Switch Off!
I could provide tons of interesting studies for you…but, I won’t. Instead, I will share with you a few things that have made a difference in regards to me getting sleep – and hopefully, they may also help you, too. I also going to do another blog in regards to things to help you to get to sleep as my next installment 🙂
At one point, I kid you not, I had 11 pillows on MY side of the bed. Pillows for my neck, for getting under my shoulders, lifting my hips and taking pressure off by raising my knees. And you know what? I was actually making my neck pain worse (but I didn’t find that out until way down the line…thing was, it FELT the most comfortable)…but I was actually doing more damage in regards to lying in a position that was pushing my head forwards.
Here is a good video discussing the best position you should be in:
What I Have Done to Make a Difference in Better Sleep…
I have now ditched many of my pillows and opted for 2 (!!!) that have really helped me. The first one is an organic Buckwheat Pillow (but you can get it in millet and many other organic options as well).
The buckwheat pillow was recommended to me by my NUCCA (Neurological Upper Cervical Chiropractor) practitioner. The reason I like it so much was the same reason I kept hold of (extremely old and probably riddled with dust mites) feather pillows – the ability to MOULD the pillow under my neck and in fact, move into comfortable positions and, the pillow basically adjusts with the weight of your head. Best pillow. EVER.
I am sure my husband is quite happy to see more of his side of the bed back. (Also removing the doubled up feather bed meant I was around a foot higher than he was!!! I used to say to him, ‘hello down there…’
This is my bed (below) after making a lot of changes to get the most comfortable position. The Heating Pad is on top.
Don’t own a heating pad? They can be life changing! I have 2, the other in our family room so I can have it on if watching TV.
Feeling cosy and warm!
Probably the one item that my hubby loves just as much as I do, are the Canadian fleece sheets that my mother has sent us from Canada. I was so excited to see that they are now available in the UK on Amazon. Hubby says when they are on that the ‘bed is trapping him because it’s so cosy…!’ (Trapped as in, very difficult to leave these sheets!)
The other pillow that has made a huge difference for me (and the cat, he likes it too), is the Sangol Maternity Pillow. As you can see in the picture below (aka my bed, sorry, it’s not tidy – but this is real life, right?) I think I have most likely turned it around so that the ‘U’ shape is under my legs, and lifts pressure off of my hip. The long ‘arms’ on either side are perfect to tuck under my hips an arms and position easily. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who thinks that my spot on the bed now truly rocks!
Your Mattress Matters
Well, I am admittedly going to step away from the whole memory foam mattress bed thing. For me, I tried one and I returned it. However, I know that many of my friends absolutely love theirs.
Coming from a family that owned a furniture store that included mattresses, I know how important it is to actually, physically go and try different mattresses. You will *know* right away what suits and what doesn’t. In saying this, lying on different mattresses for a few minutes in a store will never replace your experience of sleeping on it for real. Make sure that you have a 100% returnable option (and there is no charge for pick up either) for a minimum of 30 days. Otherwise, you are STUCK with a mattress that could actually cause more pain, discomfort and even insomnia.
For me, a pillow-top sprung mattress has been the best thing and most comfortable for us both. (You know when you have been away and the thing you miss the most isn’t your kids or pets, but your mattress? And when you return and crawl into your OWN bed how good it feels?). That’s the mattress you are aiming for!!!
Also, mattresses should be changed every 10 years.
I personally prefer heat to come from under me on the bed vs on top (like a heated blanket). That’s why I use a Heated Underblanket as it provides warmth and relief for my hips, back and legs.
As I am generally on my own during the daytime and tend to work from bed (due to a crumbling neck and not being able to sit up without major repercussions), we can keep the heating on low (or read, OFF) during the day. This heated underblanket makes a huge difference and between and my fleece sheets, we (me and the cats) are nicely snuggled in! 🙂
For the Final Ahhhh…..Comfort….
A couple of years ago, by sheer fluke, I ordered an Air Mattress for company coming to stay. Well! Let me tell you, this air mattress is the bee’s knees!
Firstly, it is very deep, as in 22’’ (so almost 2 feet!). Secondly, all you need to do us take it out of the bag, unroll it and plug it in and it pumps it up electrically!!!! (And you do the same thing to get the air out – simple!). Lastly, but most importantly…this bed for me is HEAVEN.
Imagine the air beds used in hospitals to relieve pressure sores. Ok, there is no circulating air in this etc. However, your body is truly WEIGHTLESS – not like on a memory foam mattress, where, ultimately, the foam just gets compressed against your weight. I actually have ours in the family room to watch any TV or movies on. This way, due to the way our couch is horizontal to the TV, I am able to watch the TV straight on without having to crick my neck. (And the number of times I haven’t lasted longer than 10 minutes because I am already asleep is racking up!). It is that comfortable! Pair it with the Sanggol pillow and it is sooooo comfy!!!
Are You SAD? (Or more like, do you have SAD?)
Another item that I highly suggest to all my fibromite and CFS/ME friends is to get a SAD lamp .With the night closing in on us quickly during autumn and winter and with many of us already struggling with sleep let alone Seasonal Affective Disorder
Having and using one of these lamps can help you in regards to fatigue, sleeping throughout the day (and up during the night) and can even help reduce depression. Make sure your lamp is at least 10,000 LUX (otherwise it will be fairly useless). I know several friends who use these lamps to help them during the winter months and all of them find it makes a huge difference!
I once spoke to a consultant who specialised in SAD and they told me to keep the light on during the day, right beside me until early evening. In fact, she suggested using it even in the summer, just beside the laptop (so my night table). I can say that this is one of those things that it is important to consider investing in, regarding your health and well being.
Here is a great video by Suzanne Vernon from Solve ME/CFS Initiative and is the leading researcher for ME/CFS and has raised millions of dollars. She’s an awesome human bean and is leading the way to find evidence based treatments for ME/CFS. (And fingers crossed we will be working together with her and Dr Bateman in regards to an app for their research! Yay! And it’s going to be with a wearable to track, too! Exciting!)
Lastly, before going to bed, why not relax in a nice herbal Sweet Dreams bath?
So, there you go! What I have done in regards to being comfortable in bed, helping me to sleep much better.
Hopefully These Ideas Have Helped You…
The importance of getting a good, restful sleep is imperative. Sleep helps heal your body and allows your mind to rest (well, I have pretty vivid dreams…with sound tracks and everything at times!). But most importantly, I am COMFORTABLE. And I am able to get into a position where my body is able to RELAX…
*Onen SH, Alloui A, Gross A, Eschallier A, Dubray C. The effects of total sleep deprivation, selective sleep interruption and sleep recovery on pain tolerance thresholds in healthy subjects. J Sleep Res. 2001;10(1):35–42. PubMed #11285053.