Tackling fibromyalgia is a mammoth task. It is a complex illness requiring a holistic approach. Getting our mindset right is key for helping us to improve.
If we want to get better we must truly believe we can.
The tools for a cure do not exist yet. But I do believe we are close.
In the absence of a cure, we do need to ask ourselves two questions:
Do I believe I can improve?
Am I willing to do the (hard) work to achieve this?
You need to believe you can improve and you need to do the work. Or you’ve sabotaged yourself from the beginning.
Take some time and play with these questions. Write them in your journal, or a blank piece of paper and write through all the thoughts that come up with them. When you’ve worked through that, perhaps you could write yourself an affirmation like, “I will decrease this pain and fatigue.” Or if that seems too far for you right now, “I will take one small step each day to improve my life.”
There is no magic pill. Nothing a doctor can dispense will eradicate symptoms or stand alone.
It will more than likely be a multi pronged attack in the broad areas of:
Pacing and energy management
Nutrition and food intolerances
Central nervous system/meditation
It is a big task that will take time.
You need someone on your team who:
Helps you look at the big picture, holistic management
Enabling you to focus on small, sustainable changes
Can provide accountability and support
Whether that is yourself, a coach, a family member or another suitably experienced person – you need support. PS. I offer coaching, check that out here.
It sounds hard, right? Like perhaps you could never do all of this while in such pain and so exhausted?
Let me encourage you. Because I did it. Over several years I have halved my pain and fatigue levels and improved my quality of life – far exceeding my expectations.
How did I do it? One step at a time with the belief I could improve just a little more.
What are the mindset shifts for improving fibromyalgia?
Not I can’t…but how can I? From I’ll never be cured…to I will improve. Not this is so overwhelming…but what area can I tackle right now?
A positive mindset is not going to cure us but it sure as heck will keep our hope kindled and keep showing us the way forward. One step at a time.
What can help us cultivate a positive mindset?
Each day try to find three things you are grateful for. Track your progress, however small and be thankful for it. Some days you might only find gratitude for the fact that you survived it. On others you might notice that you felt so nice for a few minutes in the hot shower. Or how sitting in the sun on your deck was so calming.
For some things that might make you feel nice see this post.
Let me know, do you have a gratitude practice? Do you believe you can improve?
When you are dealing with chronic pain and fatigue the last thing you want is to spend hours being jostled around in a busy mall trying to figure out what to get those on your list. This list that I have compiled gives you some ideas to add to your Christmas gift list and for others to give those of us with chronic illness.
I am sharing 16 Christmas gift ideas for you!
Affiliate notice: Please note that some of these links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
An Energy Friendly Creative Hobby – Paint by Numbers Canvas
Winnie’s Picks – Paint by Numbers canvas. These are very cool packs with everything the recipient needs to create their own canvas. It’s great as a meditative practice and just plain fun. This is really great for both a chronic illness fighter and a special gift for others. It’s creative without requiring bucket loads of creativity!
Reading – without having to go to the library or store
I am a massive reader. Without a fantastic library system I wouldn’t be able to maintain this perfect hobby for the chronic illness fighter. Second to the library is Amazon Kindle Unlimited – reading and listening! They offer 6, 12 and 24 month membership options which gives unlimited reading of over a million ebooks. A book lovers dream!
Audio books – without going to the shop
If audio books are more you or your person’s speed then Audible gift membership will do the trick! You can choose 1, 3, 6 or 12 months and for each month they receive three titles from a vast number of options.
Adult colouring books
Coloring is a great hobby that we can pick up and put down as needed. I have a few coloring books and my Faber Castell coloring pencils. Coloring is a great gateway to meditative practices.
Essential oil diffuser
I have written about using essential oils a few times. I particularly love copaiaba essential oil. Lavender and peppermint are really great beginner oils. Lavender is good for creating a relaxing massage oil, dropping under your pillow for sleep and more. Peppermint is good for nausea.
Fruit infusion bottle
When I created the healthy habits challenge my first area to tackle was hydration, the second was nutrition. This is a nifty way to tackle both! Add some fruits and/or herbs to your water as you hydrate.
A simple cookbook with nourishing, easy prepare meals
Ways to get into utilising the slow cooker, pressure cooker or both are always useful for us. Quick and nutritious meals that you can easily double up are perfect.
A subscription box
Do you have a local subscription box that you could set up for three or six months? The gift that keeps on giving! This website has a whole heap of options that would suit any giftee.
A potted plant
Flowers are a beautiful treat, but a plant continues to give well beyond the bouquet. I have a beautiful pink and white cyclamen in my lounge – as featured in the below image.
A herb for their windowsill to use
You could choose parsley, chives, micro greens, coriander, rosemary, thyme etc.
Hot chocolate mix
Make your own and put it in a pretty glass jar or purchase one (make it decadent).
Your favourite book
Do you have a favourite book? Give that to a lucky person on your gift list! Here are a few of my favourites…
A milk frother for a decadent morning beverage
A way to make the morning (or afternoon) nice. Hot chocolate, coffee latte, tea latte, moringa latte. This will get a lot of use.
For easy food prep try a Nutribullet– nut milks, smoothies, delicious cashew cheese sauce and more! I am obsessed with mine and it was a fun Friday when my husband bought this home for me. I would have preferred the 1200 watt, but the 800 works well too. A really good way to increase your vegetable, herb and fruit intake.
A decent heat pack
This is on my list this year! I have had the same heat pack for a few years now and it just isn’t working for me. I tried a clay one, as clay is meant to be better, but it somehow popped and then the clay was oozing out. It was bad! I would like an electric one this time.
A beautiful journal and pen
There are a lot of options for journals, a beautiful blank one or a guided one for different purposes. I always have a journal on the go and really make an effort when I have a really nice one.
The Ultimate Fibromyalgia Wellness Planner Kit
Would you or your giftee like the gift of helping you plan your journey to better wellness? My Ultimate Wellness Planner Kit is designed to help you make your pain management plans, improve sleep, choose and evaluate new treatment options and more.
There we have it, 16 options you or your person might like for Christmas this year.
Are there any on this list you are adding to yours? Do you have some other ideas?
What is the best way that exists to improve fibromyalgia? In this post, I share the best information that exists right now. I am keeping an eye on the research being done by Dr Jarred Younger and the Neuroinflammation, Pain and Fatigue Laboratory and I encourage you to as well. They are at the forefront of the research on fibromyalgia.
I believe that everybody can improve their quality of life. Whether you are suffering from chronic pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, myofascial pain syndrome, fibromyalgia – I believe there are steps we can take to improve our symptoms. I am not sure about complete recovery, yet, but I have personally halved my pain and fatigue levels. I have also dramatically improved my sleep – I no longer spend hours trying to get to sleep, sleep in one hour blocks or spend hours awake in pain in the night. It is just far and away better than before.
How did I achieve this?
By following the advice of the authors in the following two books. And by working away at lots of little steps every single day.
I also believe if we gave these books to people as soon as they were diagnosed and their doctors were willing to work with them through them, then they would not decline as far and would begin to improve sooner.
Affiliate notice: Some of these links are affiliate links and I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
This book was written by a doctor who has fibromyalgia herself and has dedicated her career to treating it. In a recent interview I saw with her, she said she believes herself to be around 80% better to what she was (following her own advice) and even works full time as a practicing doctor in addition to a lot of advocacy work and blogging etc. She also believes we may have the tools for complete recovery available in the next ten years!
This book is also designed to take the back portion to see your doctor and help them treat you. Especially the sleep section.
Another doctor who has fibromyalgia and who has dedicated his career to helping patients with it. A holistic protocol that begins with sleep. If you Google his name, you will find a multitude of resources, including videos and interviews and an entire website.
Both of these books are multi-pronged attacks and deal with more than just band aids for pain and fatigue.
Even if you only found one nugget in these books, you would improve your quality of life. These books are packed full of useful things to enact.
If you are able to follow instructions and try things yourself – then you will surely see results.
Dr Liptan also gives further detail about nutritional changes in The Fibro Food Formula book – so check that out!
All of these areas take time and trial and error. If you want to DIY it, write out a big list of goals or things to try from these books and slowly working through it
If you want support, then you can get some coaching (with me or another health coach). They can help you break it down into manageable chunks.
I believe if I was handed one or both of these books at the beginning (and had a doctor who would help me with their parts) then I wouldn’t have gotten so sick and it wouldn’t have taken so long to get better. The cascade of physiological flow on effects wouldn’t have occurred.
To Do List
Read one or both of these books
Write out the main list of areas (sleep, pain, nutrition etc.)
Fill in ideas to try under each area, including what you need to ask your doctor for help with
Work on each part slowly
If you can, engage a coach to help you with this work – it’s complex and there’s a lot to it
Nutrition is important for optimal health. What “healthy eating” means exactly varies from person to person. I have been researching food as a gateway to good health recently and while I haven’t settled on a massive lifestyle change such as paleo or plant-based etc I have formulated the below four key healthy eating choices you can start enacting right now.
Affiliate notice: Some of my links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using my link I will make a commission at no extra cost to you.
Here’s the video about it
I still don’t believe in making food a battleground or making massive changes without a lot of preparation, but these things I have managed while nursing with three children five and under and chronic pain and fatigue.
So here are my eating healthy eating changes you can make right now:
Lots of fruit and vegetables.
I am aiming for eight servings a day with most from a colourful array of vegetables.
What are my secret weapons? Soups and smoothies. I have used my Nutribullet to make many types of smoothies with a mix of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and dairy free milk. I also make my dairy free milk using it! You can get your own Nutribullet here, I’m obsessed with mine!
3. Less grains – there’s a lot of discussion around grain. Having done a gluten-free trial a few years ago I know I am not allergic or intolerant but I am keen to reduce my reliance on grain based carbohydrates. By prioritising vegetables and fruits I have managed to de-prioritize grains. When I have them they are wholegrain and well soaked.
4. Avoid what you are intolerant to
If you suspect something doesn’t agree with you, avoid it for 30 days then add back in. Eliminating lactose has helped me a lot. If you suspect there are many issues in your diet and these four things are not helping then you might consider doing the Whole30 elimination diet or a similar idea. They remove the most common intolerances and then you add them back in one at a time to challenge them. This way you can eat what works for you.
Checking your intolerances
You can also check for intolerances with testing. IntoleranceLab provides Food Sensitivity Testing and is a quick start way to identify your intolerances. You just send them a sample of your hair. I have not used this lab personally because I am in New Zealand, but I have done intolerance testing using my hair and it was surprising what came up. I vaguely knew at the time that dairy was not good for me and that bananas were difficult to tolerate – and my test confirmed it. Simple!
So these are my four tips you can work on right now. I am actually finding subtle benefit from my changes. I am less bloated and uncomfortable and I am noticing that I am experiencing less reactive hypoglycemia (physical reaction to hunger such as dizziness and being hangry.) I am also able to eat slightly less often than I used to, which is a relief as I am over figuring out what to eat all the time!
What would your tips be? What have you worked on and found made a difference?
So what would I keep in this list? What would I add?
My current understanding is that there are six key areas to fight chronic pain, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia:
Knowledge and taking control for ourselves
Central nervous system
Fatigue and pacing
What works for me right now?
Find the video here
Sleep is the biggest component of my journey. I will discuss this more under Low Dose Naltrexone, below, but it is HUGE. See also my giant insomnia post for more.
Aside from sleep and physiotherapy I do a lot of stretching, self-trigger point work, yoga, meditation, essential oils, heat and more. I am employing more natural remedies than medicinal.
Low Dose Naltrexone– is now number one on my list. This one covers sleep and pain management . It helps me sleep in more than one hour blocks, which has been the biggest part of my puzzle. Now, when I sleep only six or seven hours (due to the baby) but a few hours in a row, I feel infinitely better than I ever did on my eight or nine broken hours. As a result I experience less pain, less anxiety, less brain fog. More health and a much better quality of life.
Physiotherapy – this is still crucial, more specifically the insertion of dry needles into trigger points and left for 15 minutes to rest to encourage blood flow and relaxation followed by stretching and mobilizations. I only have to go every three weeks at the moment, which is a big win as I pay privately for every treatment. Learn more about myofascial pain syndrome and trigger points here.
A combination of reduced work hours and reduced activity levels. Both are key. Reduced work hours is the first thing that jump started my journey to wellness and is still part of managing my energy envelope.
Perpetuating Factors/Normal Human Needs
For me, this means managing the myofascial pain syndrome and the fibromyalgia. Most of my six key ways hit multiple symptoms. Aside from managing my posture, avoiding triggers and sleeping as best as I can, these two are important:
Nourishment – I am learning about the importance of nutrition right now. I haven’t yet finalised my template for eating going forward but all of my research seems to suggest the number one thing we can do is prioritize vegetables and fruits. Then I am prioritizing healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil etc) and good quality protein. This leads to a lower consumption of grains. As an offshoot, supplementation, is key. I am using magnesium and 5HTP to sleep (after finally getting off amitriptyline after years which precluded 5HTP). I also supplement with MSM as our soils are generally deficient in sulphur and this seems to help me. I am preferring whole foods over supplements – I am taking moringa powder or hemp powder for naturally occuring vitamins and minerals.
Gentle exercise – this is still key but I am able to do more than I was previously. I can now do 30 minute walks without pain hangovers. My exercise of choice includes yoga, walking and Pilates.
Central nervous system
Meditation– this has only become more integral to my daily life. I have meditated daily for more than five years now. I use it for rest (I can’t nap), for pain relief (or a break from it when it is bad) and stress relief. The benefits I have reaped since my initial post are so many that I am a mindfulness and meditation cheerleader. You can sign up for my free workshop Mindfulness for the Chronic Life here.
So these are the key things that are working for me now.
I know it is complex. It has taken me years and a lot of research and personal trial and error to figure out. I have provided many links in this post to help you in your research.
Do you miss learning? Or want to up-skill but don’t have any spoons leftover after life to go to class? Online learning options might be the way to go.
I have found online learning options to be excellent for filling that gap as a mama with chronic illness. I’m not expected anywhere at any specific time. I can access lectures while wearing the fussy baby in the wrap. And while I am tired from the baby waking regularly in the night, since I have experienced the improvement in my symptoms from low dose naltrexone, I can’t bear not to indulge my love of learning.
Affiliate notice: Some of my links are affiliate links, if you make a purchase using my link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Benefits of online learning for those with chronic illness
You can lie or sit however you need (in bed with your heat pack?)
You don’t have to leave the house at a specified time
You don’t have to do the work at a specified time
You can do as little or as much as you can fit in (around energy, children, etc)
You can use your phone, laptop, tablet or computer – whatever works best for you
Keep your brain active
Up-skill yourself no matter your current employment status
You can learn a hobby you have been curious about
Online courses are the most useful when you do the work and can demonstrate what you’ve learned. So if you want to put it on your CV, be prepared to talk about how it helped you and relate it to your work.
How to get the most out of online learning
Complete all of the work offered, the reading, the quizzes, the videos, the extras
Ensure you understand it all
Participate in forums provided
Practice what you have learnt
Ensure you understand what you have learnt and how it can help you in your career (if you intend to use it on your CV)
Below I share some learning platforms I have come used.
When I was off work while pregnant due to severe pelvis issues last year I did a course on SEO (search engine optimisation) through Lynda.com. I had free access to this as my public library has a bulk membership which was awesome. The app was easy to use and there is a great selection of both longer and shorter courses. As a bonus it shows the certificate of completion on LinkedIn. There were no assignments but I practiced everything on my blog.
Earlier this year I completed a life coach certification through Udemy. I paid just $11.99 USD (down from $200!) for my course in the January sale and it is a fairly comprehensive one. After this one I moved on to mindfulness certification and group coaching. Once I had completed my courses I received my certificate. I also joined the networking group associated with my course provider (The Transformation Academy) to learn even more. I also practiced my new skills as I went. I have loved every minute of the training, the practicing and then using my skills in this blog. It will also be useful when I go back to part time work. The beauty and tricky part of Udemy is that the courses are run by different people and are not necessarily vetted by Udemy. I highly recommend the Transformation Academy though.
Their About page says, “We believe that free education, more than anything, has the power to break through boundaries and transform lives.” And living with chronic illness is definitely a barrier to further learning.
I have just found Alison and have my eye on a few of their free courses for some future up-skilling. With options for 2-3 hour certificates or pathways for diplomas there is a lot to search through. Subjects range from touch typing to French to graphic design to project management.
You can choose the premium (paid) option and gain access to all courses for as long as you need, or you can enroll in courses and complete them within a designated time frame without paying (but you won’t receive a completion certificate). You can choose short courses up to online degrees.
Subject ideas you may like to explore as a start
pretty much anything you like!
Have you embarked upon any online learning? Do you have one you recommend?
If you are curious about up-skilling yourself for your fight to be well you might like to look into my learning options. To learn from the comfort of your bed, couch, or comfortable chair with your phone, tablet or computer. Take my shortcut – all my years of research, personal learning, trial and error to make your plans.
This is another interview with a fellow fibro mama, this time we are learning about how one mama uses essential oils to manage chronic pain, fibromyalgia. Since this interview was conducted Kara welcomed her gorgeous baby.
Could you introduce yourself in a few sentences for us?
My name is Kara Carril, I’m 28, and soon-to-be first time mom! I live in Arizona with my husband and our two dogs, Diesel and Rain!
How did you get into essential oils for fibromyalgia?
My mom is a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils here in the US. After she had breast cancer 10 years ago, she got into living a more chemical-free lifestyle. She did a lot of research on essential oils and the potential help they could give to autoimmune diseases. She has fibromyalgia as well as ankylosing spondylitis amongst other health issues. The oils helped her pain management dramatically, so she eventually introduced them to me, and I was hooked!
What are your favourite ones and what do they help with?
The ones I use most often are lavender, frankincense, copaiba, PanAway (a blend), Valor (a blend), cedarwood, and eucalyptus/peppermint. I use lavender and cedarwood mixed with distilled water for a pillow spray before bed. It helps calm and relax to be able to go into a deeper sleep. I use lavender/cedarwood in mascara to help strengthen lashes (I know it’s not fibro related but a cool trick!-just a drop of each).
I use lavender/frankincense in homemade face soap with coconut oil and baking soda. PanAway I use on my back spasms. Valor and copaiba I also use on my back spasms. Valor is often referred to as a “chiropractor in a bottle” and copaiba is compared to “morphine in a bottle” and often enhances whatever other oils you use in conjunction with it. I use eucalyptus/peppermint on my sinuses and throat when I feel I’m getting sick, and I also use either with lavender and epsom salts in baths when I’m having a bad flare up.
I will stop using peppermint when I’m breastfeeding though because it is said to drastically reduce your milk supply (good for when you’re trying to stop producing though!).
“The ones I use most often are lavender, frankincense, copaiba, PanAway (a blend), Valor (a blend), cedarwood, and eucalyptus/peppermint.”
Do you have any blends you make yourself?
Lavender/Cedarwood for sleep/relaxation- 5-10 drops of each in a 3oz spray bottle filled with distilled water. Make the strength based on your scent preferences. I also spray it on the bottoms of my feet before bed or will use straight lavender drops when my feet are really sore. I also use this combo in my diffuser at night next to my bed.
I make a ton of diffuser blends based on what my needs are. Lemon/peppermint combo is really good for getting rid of stinky smells, lavender/cedarwood is great for relaxing/sleep. Orange and lemon or any citrus combination is great for morning and energy! Ginger, peppermint, and lemon is good for tummy aches too!
For more research into using essential oils in your journey you may like
As we know, fibromyalgia is a painful condition that many suffer from. In fact, it’s believed that in the United States alone, over 10 million people have some form of it. While medications might help calm symptoms, they don’t always have the best side effects or lasting results. Because of this, many often look for other methods they can use to help ease their symptoms.
This is a guest post from Dr. Brent Wells, a chiropractor who founded Alaska-based Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab. There is more detail about his work below.
Surprisingly, one of the best ways to help with fibromyalgia pain is to stretch. This is because it will reduce inflammation in the body and help to keep it active. Because of this, it will keep the body calm which can significantly reduce the symptoms of this medical issue. Below you’ll find more about why stretching is so important for those with fibromyalgia and some stretching options you can use to help with it.
Benefits of Stretching for Those Who Suffer From Fibromyalgia
There are many benefits that come with stretching if you have fibromyalgia. Below are some you’ll find if you do.
It Increases Serotonin and Endorphins in the Body
When you suffer from fibromyalgia, it can decrease the levels of serotonin and endorphins in your body. Serotonin and endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that help with emotions. When they have low levels, they cause the body to feel drowsy and irritable which can affect your mood and physical wellbeing. Stretching can help by boosting the levels of these two chemicals in the body. It will help to improve your overall mood which can lower the side effects of fibromyalgia, like anxiety and stress.
It Can Help with Muscle and Joint Movement
Stretching works to help increase muscle and joint movements in your body. This can prevent nerve pain as you will keep these areas active. It also helps you to be more flexible.
It Works to Improve the Heart
You might be surprised to learn that stretching can actually help to improve the heart. This is because it will expand the surrounding arteries and keep them open and pliable. It also reduces any fat around the heart and can help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
It Can Improve Your Sleep
Stretching can improve your sleep because it reduces tension in the body. It also helps to release endorphins which can make you feel better both mentally and physically. This will encourage your body to stay calm which can help you to get a better night’s sleep.
Stretching Options for Those with Fibromyalgia
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you’ll find there are a few simple yet extremely beneficial stretching options you can consider trying out.
Make Circular Motions with Your Joints
One simple stretching option for those with fibromyalgia is to make gentle circular motions with your joints. For instance, move your ankles around in circular motions and then counterclockwise ones. This will help to awaken your muscles and joints in the area but do so in a simple and pain-free way.
Do Calf Stretches
Calf stretches are very important as it helps to relieve tension in the Achilles tendon. To do a calf stretch, place your hands on a flat surface, ideally a wall. After doing so, press and bend one leg forward while keeping one leg back. Lean gently against the leg that is forward and then switch it with your other leg. You can continue this stretch for a few minutes.
Try Aerobic Stretching
Aerobic stretching can be very simple and helps to keep your heart healthy. There are a few different types of aerobic stretching you can consider:
Circular arm motions: stand straight and hold your hands out sideways. Then, move them in circular motions forward and then backward.
Jogging in place: you can stand in one place and start doing a gentle mini jog. This doesn’t have to be intense, just a few minutes of you slowly running in place.
Do Pool Exercises
Stretching in a pool can help you to move around more freely because the water doesn’t mix with gravity. This can make it feel as if you’re floating and give you more mobility. There are plenty of pool exercises to consider doing that are very easy to do. Some include:
Sidestepping: hold on to the pool’s wall and then take about 20 steps to one side while holding on to the wall. You can then reverse the direction.
Knee lift: hold on to the pool’s wall and carefully lift one knee up to your chest. Hold this position for about five seconds and then switch to the next leg.
Hip kicks: stand with your body sideways to the pool’s wall while holding on to it. Then, lift one leg up in the water as if you are kicking something and then switch to your other leg. Continue this motion with both legs for a few minutes.
Keep in mind though that if you feel any pain when doing stretches, stop immediately. This could not only worsen your fibromyalgia pain, but cause muscle strains and injuries. Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to overtake your life. By doing simple stretches, you can work to naturally relieve many of its symptoms. Better yet, most of them are very easy to do so everyone can try them out no matter what stage of fibromyalgia you might have. Because of this, stretching is ideal to implement into your lifestyle to help give you relief.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Wells is a chiropractor who founded Alaska-based Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab. This practice offers numerous services to help those with everything from mild to severe pain and is designed to provide great care to those on the search for top Anchorage chiropractors in AK 99515.
Insomnia is a serious and often ignored problem, especially for people with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.
I would like to suggest that we need to take this more seriously.
This is a long post. You may want to grab a cuppa and get comfortable! If you have fibromyalgia and brain fog is an issue, there is a handy (free) PDF document below for you to download!
The video: Insomnia and Fibromyalgia
Key facts about insomnia and fibromyalgia
A key problem for people with fibromyalgia and many other chronic illnesses
Debilitating and makes other already incapacitating symptoms worse
A recipe for a shorter, less fulfilled life
Pain inducing – even for those without chronic pain conditions
A money drain – in health care costs from those who suffer the side effects, in absenteeism from inability to work, in lost income, if you could place a value on a fully functioning human being able to participate fully in life then multiply that by the 10 million people estimated in the US alone (and 3-6% of the world’s population) it would be a massive number.
Sleep helps pretty much every symptom of fibromyalgia
Sleep improves our quality of life and our emotional state
We can improve sleep! It might be multi factorial and a doctor needs to help in many cases, but we can improve sleep.
Shall we take a look into the literature that supports my statements?
Does insomnia lead to death?
Laboratory animals subjected to extreme sleep deprivation can die relatively swiftly of unknown causes — exactly what goes wrong is not clear, but their body temperatures start to drop and then they suffer rapid and widespread physiological failure. 
Does insomnia cause pain?
“According to the majority of the studies, sleep deprivation produces hyperalgesic changes.” (That means yes!)
What side effects does insomnia cause? A summary based upon all of the research I have ever done and experienced after more than a decade living with it:
Anxiety and/or depression
Sleep as a treatment for pain
“More broadly, our findings highlight sleep as a novel therapeutic target for pain management within and outside the clinic, including circumstances where sleep is frequently short yet pain is abundant (e.g. the hospital setting).”
Why is sleep a novel (or innovative) treatment for pain??
So we have found that research supports insomnia as life threatening, costing money, leading to pain (and sleep is a treatment for pain) what is the insomnia problem specifically relating to fibromyalgia?
What is insomnia, exactly?
Trouble falling asleep
Difficulty staying asleep
Waking too early
Not achieving good quality sleep
What’s happening for people with fibromyalgia and sleep?
Dr Ginevra Liptan, MD, writes about sleep in her book The Fibro Manual (2016):
“Sleep studies show that Fibromyalgia subjects show abnormal ‘awake-type’ brain waves all night long, with reduced and interrupted deep sleep and frequent ‘mini-awakenings’ (Brandi 1994; Kooh 2003). This deep-sleep deprivation leads to pain, fatigue, and poor brain function (Lerma 2011; Moldofsky 2008; Harding 1998). Treatment focused on increasing deep sleep is the key to improving all these symptoms.”
In plain terms, people with Fibromyalgia don’t tend to reach stage four of the sleep cycle (the deep, restorative stage), and therefore, they suffer from chronic, deep sleep deprivation, which causes all sorts of issues with the body: pain, fatigue, fog, anxiety, etc.
Insomnia—along with poor sleep in general—is believed to make fibromyalgia symptoms more severe, which means treating your sleep problems may have the secondary effect of improving pain, fibro fog, and more.
Let’s just repeat that – treating sleep should help with pain, fatigue and fibro fog.
How have I experienced insomnia?
Every single night for more than a decade (including my entire twenties), despite researching and using a lot of sleep hygiene tips and natural sleep aids, having trouble falling asleep, not staying asleep for more than one hour at a time, spending time awake in the night too exhausted to get up but too sore to remain lying still and waking feeling more tired than I went to bed.
This was while on the only option the doctor every offered me – amitriptyline.
Finally in 2017 I began taking low dose naltrexone and it helped me to start sleeping in blocks of up to a few hours. This made such a difference on my quality of life. But I still struggle with insomnia every single day.
I can’t imagine how much more I could achieve if I could sleep well. Or what it might have been like if my doctors had been willing to work with me to help me achieve more sleep. Even utilizing low doses of medicines for a short amount of time to achieve some rest, like two prominent physicians who have fibromyalgia and treat patients with it suggest (Dr Teitelbaum From Fatigued to Fantastic and Dr Liptan The Fibro Manual – thank you so much to these two doctors who have done so much for our community).
I was miserable and missed out on the usual things one does in their twenties. I couldn’t do my OE, I could hardly make it through the day let alone travel long distances.
Now, with the amount of sleep I’ve been able to reclaim I am managing day to day, but I still experience severe costs. I cannot stay up late, it is difficult to manage my children myself, I cannot work and when I do work I can only manage part-time work (so a cost of 30,000-80,000 per year lost there). Add the costs of things I need to manage such as the low dose naltrexone prescription, doctors’ visits, supplements, physiotherapy, and the many, many things I have tried to help myself. Add in the impact on my quality of life of dealing with chronic pain all day every day. I don’t know what a pain free day might look like!
And there are people who are worse off than me.
What do other people with fibromyalgia and insomnia say?
“Fibromyalgia insomnia is a very real issue for me. I am currently breastfeeding a six month old. She wakes for one feed a night and resettles quickly back to sleep. It then takes me two to three hours to get myself back to sleep. I am exhausted. I have not had a good night sleep in years.” – Amanda
“Where do I start? It’s a vicious cycle in so many ways. If it’s not the pain keeping me up, it’s restless leg syndrome or another of the plethora of symptoms and comorbid disorders that come with fibro. Otherwise, it’s pure anxiety from having night terrors brought on by my medication and the trauma that landed me with fibro in the first instance. The more I get into a terrible sleeping pattern, the worse my pain and other symptoms get, the worse my mental health gets, the worse my relationships get because I just cannot function or am not physically able or awake to conduct a “normal” life. And of course all of these things contribute to not being able to sleep or sleep well. Which perpetuates the issue.
While I was at uni my insomnia was seriously affecting my studies but I got flat out told by several doctors that they refused all students sleeping meds because they were so highly abused. I cried in Drs appointments, I cried as I lay awake at night in pain, I cried when I was forced to ask for extensions on my coursework, I cried when I got sub-standard grades because I knew it wasn’t a reflection on my ability but my circumstance. It’s such an underestimated burden that so many are forced to “put up with” because “everyone’s stressed” or “everyone’s tired” for one reason or another. I wish it was taken as seriously as my pain, which has had all manner of meds thrown at it. I’m sure it hurts me just as much.” – Rebekah
So for them, and for me, I want to beg doctors to take the sleep problem much more seriously. I want to beg researchers to look into how we can fix this (ideally without long term drug use).
If you are suffering from insomnia and fibromyalgia what can you do?
Step four discusses using the breath as an energy source, “Pranayama can increase your fitness and energy levels – without getting out of bed!”
Step five is the actual yoga! Kuran provides a more active routine, a gentle restorative routine and discusses yoga Nidra.
“Like other forms of meditation, yoga Nidra helps release serotonin and decrease cortisol which lowers your stress response.” I adore yoga Nidra and it’s a vital part of my coping when I’m tired, especially when I have tiny babies and am not sleeping much at night – so I always enjoy learning more about it.
I loved the suggestion that even in a flare up we can do yoga. Practicing yoga doesn’t mean a big routine or even physical movement – Kuran points out that even visualizing yourself doing yoga poses can be useful. A breathing practice while lying in bed is sufficient. This makes yoga such a useful tool for those fighting chronic fatigue – its adaptability.
If you enact the action points suggested at the end of each step you will be a long way toward a holistic healing process.
I highly recommend this book and yoga if you struggle with chronic fatigue.
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