“Eighty percent of my patients make their sleep worse.” Dr. Lucinda Bateman
We’re not used to thinking of good sleep ‘protocols’, but the fact is there are ways to go to sleep that help you sleep better and ways to go to sleep that cause you to sleep less well. With sleep problems rampant in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, doing everything you can do to snatch as much deep sleep as you can only makes sense.
It turns out that the way you enter sleep makes a difference in how deep of a sleep you get. If you enter sleep in a deeply relaxed state you’re more likely to experience the deep sleep stages that are so rejuvenating. If, on the other hand, you enter sleep in a frazzled state, you’re more likely to experience fitful, unrefreshing sleep.
Good sleep practices aren’t ‘the answer’ to the sleep problems in ME/CFS, but they can definitely help.
Raise the Head of Your Bed Several Inches – Simply raising the head of your bed 10-30 degrees can be very effective for some people and it can increase blood volume. Find out more here.
Keep the Light Levels Low. Because darkness activates the release of melatonin which tells the brain to go to sleep, keep your light levels in your bedroom. Use curtains or blinds to block street light or consider using a mask. Instead of using overhead lights use lamps with low wattage or clip on reading lights.
Use Your Bedroom Only to Sleep – One of the goals of sleep hygiene is to get your body/mind to enter into ‘sleep mode’ when you enter your bedroom. You can do this by removing objects it associates with activity such as the television and computer from the room.
Background noises generated by a fan or radio with sound generators (rainstorms, waves, wildlife) or sleep meditation tapes can be very soothing.
Invest in a Really Good Mattress mattress – Find a firm but comfortable mattress that you feel comfortable with. The Cuddle Ewe Sleep pad is another alternative that can give you relief fibromyalgia trigger points that can keep you awake.
GOOD SLEEP BEHAVIOR
Nap During the Day – Not After Dinner – When you nap don’t do it in your bedroom. (You want to train your mind to associate deep sleep with your bedroom – not napping.)
Take a Nice Warm Bath – several hours before going to sleep to get into a relaxed state. Studies indicate that insomniacs sleep better when they take a bath several hours before sleep. The slow cooling was believed to induce sleep triggering chemicals in the body. Dr. Teitelbaum highly recommends Epsom salts in your bath water.
Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule – some people with ME/CFS/FM feel better at night so they stay up later …and later … and later until their normal sleep circadian rhythm is wrecked. Train your body to go to sleep at a certain time.
Exercise If You Can But Don’t Over Do It – It’s simple – exercise is a sleep inducer; lying in bed is a sleep reducer. Try to get in as much exercise as you can without exacerbating your symptoms, Too much exertion can put you into the ‘tired but wired’ state that makes it difficult to attain meaningful sleep.
Knock Off the TV and Computer Games Before Bed – Engage in less stimulating activities two hours before bed
Stay Away from Liquids Before Bedtime to Avoid Night Time Trips to the Bathroom
Do Calming Exercises Just Before Bed – Dr. Friedberg found that 30 minutes or more of relaxation exercises (focused breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization exercises) helps ME/CFS and FM patients sleep better and have more energy the next day.
Write Down Disturbing Thoughts in a Notebook – Johannes Starke recommends writing down to do’s and other thoughts that are keeping you up in a notebook to put your mind at ease just prior to sleep. Then tell your brain that ‘that issue’ has been taken care of for now and it’s OK to sleep.
Waking up in the Middle of the Night. – Dr. Friedberg recommends trying relaxation exercises (focused breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery or listening to a relaxation audiotape). If that doesn’t work within 30 minutes then get out of bed and into a comfortable chair and try again. When you start to feel sleepy get back in bed. If you don’t go to sleep then start the process over again.