Sleep and Fibromyalgia by Dawn M. Daloisio, MTPT, NMT, OMT, LMT One of the most important things a person with fibromyalgia and/or myofascial pain can do is to get a good night's sleep. A person's pain can often interfere with sleep. If you're not sleeping, you'll find your pain is intensified. The reason is this: When you are awake, your body is using its sympathetic system - one of the two subdivisions of the autonomic nervous system involved in the processes of expenditure of energy, otherwise known as "Fight or Flight". The other subdivision of the autonomic nervous system is the parasympathetic system, dealing with conserving and restoring body energy, also known as "Rest and Repair". This is the process that replaces lost nutrients and fixes or replaces damaged cells. The autonomic nervous system is like a light switch: it is either in the "on" position or the "off" position; it can never be in both at the same time. Since the sympathetic system controls body energy, it is operating during the time a person is awake. The only time the parasympathetic system takes over is when the sympathetic system turns off -and that happens when a person is asleep. There is a transition period that takes place during the early phases of sleep, therefore, it is not until a person reaches the R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep that cell repair actually begins to take place. The problem that occurs when a person has fibromyalgia and/or myofascial pain is that because they are in pain, their nervous systems are highly active, preventing relaxation and sleep to take place. They do not ever reach the level of sleep it takes to turn on the parasympathetic system, therefore, they miss cell repair. The next day they are already starting off the day in an energy deficit. Over time, the effects of lack of sleep become paramount. There are several things you can do that may improve your sleep: 1. Ice the sore areas or take a hot bath (depending on your doctor or therapist's directions) just before going to bed. 2. Do your self-treatment program (if you have one) before going to bed. 3. Do your stretching routine (if you have one) following your self-treatment program. 4. Take several deep breaths, inhaling into the abdomen then slowly exhaling, before getting into bed. 5. Some people take a calcium supplement or an herbal tea. Many people find Valerian root effective. These are available in most health food stores. 6. Keep warm in bed. Natural body rhythms, especially body temperature, determine the length of sleep. The higher the body temperature, the longer a person will sleep. 7. Never sleep on your stomach, no matter how comfortable you think you are. This position reverses the natural skeletal curvatures, and will eventually irritate muscular structure, causing chronic muscle pain. 8. When lying on your back, an orthopedic wedge or a couple of pillows under your knees and a pillow under your neck is often helpful. 9. When lying on your side, keep a towel roll between your rib cage and hips, a pillow between your knees, and your upper arm resting on a folded towel, pillow, or spouse. 10. Do not take your work and troubles into the bedroom. Try to keep your bedroom a stress-free environment. If all else fails, consider consulting a physician who will prescribe medication to help you sleep. When taken for a short period of time, the medication may allow the body to repair itself, become stronger and healthier, and re-educate the nervous system, thereby breaking the pain cycle.