Guest post by Alicia Rennoll
Fibromyalgia has many symptoms but one of the most dangerous for long-term health is undoubtedly that of sleep deprivation. Sleep is vital for our mental and physical health; if you consistently have poor sleep quantity and quality, you have a great risk of pain, anxiety, and depression. Research has shown that the deep sleep patterns of people with firbomyalgia are often disrupted by brainwaves that correspond to wakefulness. These irregular brain wave patterns may cause pain to worsen. In a recent study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers found that specific medications can prevent disrupted sleep. However, there are also many natural approaches that can improve pain for persons battling fibromyalgia.
Yoga Improves Fibromyalgia Pain
The relationship between fibromyalgia and pain is cyclical. The greater your pain, the harder it can be to fall or stay asleep. One study by researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University found that yoga exercises can combat the pain caused by fibromyalgia, and reduce fatigue, fitness, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and poor memory. One likely reason for success is the fact that yoga is inspiration and motivational. It can be adapted to any level, so it is easy to stick to.
Mindfulness Meditation and Fibromyalgia
A recent study found that mindfulness meditation can attenuate fibromyalgia pain by enhancing mental flexibility. Mindfulness meditation encourages a person with fibromyalgia to accept their thoughts and emotions surrounding their illness, without allowing these to lead them into a negative state that exacerbates pain. By accepting your pain and by viewing it as impermanent and non-defining, symptoms of pain actually improve and sleep can be achieved. Meditation brings about a clear, unburdened state of mind thanks to the safe distancing from worries, fears, and other emotions that may can illness feel like something that will never change. This relaxed state can help you escape from a cyclical state of worry and make it easier to fall asleep.
The Swedish Research Council found that relaxing in sound- and light-proof tanks with a high salt-water content (known as ‘tank flotation’) can alleviate long-term, stress-related pain. Scientists noted that “Through relaxing in floating tanks, people with long-term fibromyalgia, for instance, or depression and anxiety felt substantially better after only twelve treatments.” Stress hormone levels decreased, as did blood pressure. Therefore, flotation is an ideal way for those who are burdened by stress and anxiety to seek the level of relaxation they need to enjoy a full night’s sleep.
We have mentioned three natural ways to help quell pain and enjoy better sleep. There are many more approaches that can help, including practising good sleep hygiene (sleeping at the same time every night, etc.); maintaining a good circadian rhythm through exposure to light by day and complete darkness in the bedroom by night; and investing in a quality bed. At bedtime, exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation can also help rid body and mind of tension and encourage one to feel the peaceful ‘heaviness’ that signals readiness to fall asleep.