Article: ME/CFS and Sleep

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by ProHealth, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. ProHealth

    ProHealth Member

    by Dr. Sarah Myhill, MD
    April 14, 2010

    "Often ME/CFS patients get into a bad rhythm of poor sleep at night, which means they feel ill for the day, which means they get another bad night. They are half asleep by night and half awake by day. Furthermore, their natural time for sleep gets later and later. They go to bed late and if they have to get up at the usual time, chronic lack of sleep ensues."

    You Must Sleep - Time for Service and Repair

    All animals, even bacteria, need a time to shut down normal metabolism for the processes of healing and repair. All higher animals do this during sleep. If you get insufficient sleep, your health will gradually ratchet downhill as there is more time for damage to take place and less time for healing and repair.

    Humans evolved to sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light. Sleep is a form of hibernation when the body shuts down in order to repair damage done through use, to conserve energy and hide from predators. The normal sleep pattern that evolved in hot climates is to sleep, keep warm and conserve energy during the cold nights and then sleep again in the afternoons when it is too hot to work and hide away from the midday sun. As humans migrated away from the Equator, the sleep pattern had to change with the seasons and as the lengths of the days changed.

    Get the Hours of Sleep

    People needed more sleep during the winter than in the summer in order to conserve energy and fat resources. Furthermore during the summer humans had to work long hours to store food for the winter and so dropped the afternoon siesta. But the need for a rest (if not a sleep) in the middle of the day is still there.

    Therefore it is no surprise that young children, elderly and people who become ill often have an extra sleep in the afternoon and for these people that is totally desirable. Others have learned to 'power nap', as it is called, during the day and this allows them to feel more energetic later. If you can do it then this is an excellent habit to get into – it can be learned!

    The average daily sleep requirement is nine hours, ideally taken between 9:30 pm and 6:30 am, i.e., during hours of darkness, but allow for more in the winter and less in the summer. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after – this is because human growth hormone is produced during the hours of sleep before midnight.

    To show how important the balance of hours of sleep and rest are, divide the day into 12 hours of activity and 12 hours of rest. If you have one extra hour of activity (13 hours), you lose an hour of rest and sleep (11 hours). The difference is two hours!

    Sleep When It Is Dark

    Light on the skin prevents the production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone essential for a good night’s sleep. Therefore, the bedroom should be completely blacked out and quiet in order to give the best chance of quality sleep. Even people who are born blind still have a day night rhythm – it is light landing on the skin which has the effect – just closing your eyes will not do it!

    A study done in 1907 before electricity was available showed that people went to bed when it got dark and rose when it got light. On average through the year they got 9 hours sleep, more in winter, less in summer. Nowadays we average 7 and a half hours of sleep – we are losing on average 550 hours of sleep a year!

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