For those of us with fibromyalgia, we soon realize we do not sleep like we used to. Our sleep patterns change overtime. Most people with fibromyalgia eventually develop sleep disturbances. Do we really stop to think about what changes our quality of sleep?!
People with fibromyalgia develop sleep patterns that remain choppy, inconsistent and leaves us feeling unrefreshed when we awake. Obviously chronic pain through out the night can continuously wake us up, but there is scientific proof showing people with fibromyalgia experience inadequate deep sleep. When we lack deep sleep, we may experience daytime fatigue, impairments to cognition such as slower thinking, reduced concentration and even muscle pain!! We experience sleep deprivation. A healthy person experiences a predictable sleep pattern -entering into each stage of sleep for so long and in a specific order. Deep sleep is the most important of all the sleep stages that take place.
According to research, people with fibromyalgia do not spend much time in the deep sleep stage. The deep sleep we do get is often interrupted by “wakeful” brain waves that are normally only seen in a wakeful brain – known as alpha wave intrusion. The alpha wave intrusion seems to be connected to the stress response center. In healthy individuals the alpha waves are not active during sleeping. However, the alpha intrusions remain active in people with fibromyalgia, waiting to fight off a threat. This information takes us back to the flight or fight response. Our alpha brain waves are stuck in the fight response and “sleep with one eye open”. In 1975, Dr Moldofsky, was able to induce fibromyalgia muscle pain and fatigue in healthy college students. After a few nights of sleep deprivation, muscle pain and fatigue resulted. Both symptoms went away after they got deep sleep again.
As we fall into deeper stages of sleep, our muscles cleanse themselves of metabolic debris. Experts state that in fibromyalgic muscles, there is an overabundant amount of “leftovers” because our muscles are constantly contracted. The contracted muscles do not allow for restorative rest needed to cleanse the muscles at night. Our brain also self cleanses itself while in deep sleep – removing harmful toxins. The build up of debris can possibly cause muscle twitches, pain and weakness to form.
Read more about deep sleep here.
Doctors may suggest using medications that help a person stay in the deep sleep stage longer. I won’t list medication names here as depending on where you live, each medication may or may not be approved. I would advice you to speak to your doctor for more information. You can also work on practicing strategies to get a good nights sleep. You can find the list in my previous blog here.