Sleep Disorder: The Most Important Symptom

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by JLH, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. JLH

    JLH New Member

    Sleep Disorder: The Most Important Symptom

    The single most important symptom to treat in Chronic Fatigue and Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) is the sleep disorder. This is because good quality sleep is necessary for healing.

    Recent scientific evidence indicates that people with CFIDS and Fibromyalgia (FM) have a deficiency in “non-REM” sleep, a deep part of the sleep cycle that is critical for restoration and healing. So, even though you may be asleep for a lot of hours, if you are not getting adequate non REM sleep, you will not awaken refreshed, and your body will not get the support it needs to restore health.

    Some researchers suspect that at the root of CFIDS and FM may actually be a primary sleep disorder.

    This idea is supported by the findings of a Canadian researcher who studied the effects of non-REM sleep deprivation on a group of medical students. Over a period of several nights, each time the students were going into non-REM phase they would be deliberately disturbed.

    The result was that in a few days they developed all the classic symptoms of CFIDS and FM. Research has shown that the sleep medications currently available, while they may help you sleep, do not help with the disturbance of the non-REM phase.

    What can you do to support your body's need for good quality sleep?

    There are several issues you can address.

    1. “Night People.”
    I know that many people consider themselves “night people,” going to bed in the early morning hours and sleeping later into the day. You may feel that you just can't get to sleep before 1:00 a.m., or your body just doesn't “want" to go to sleep earlier. Or perhaps you have operated this way for a number of years even before you got sick. While this pattern may seem natural to you, it is a learned habit and is not a natural part of your body's metabolic functioning. The body’s physiology and neurochemistry are designed to be responsive to the natural cycles of nature, including daylight and darkness. Your pineal gland, which regulates your hormonal system and is involved in the release of melatonin, is very sensitive to daylight and darkness. Of course you can override your body’s natural functioning to some degree with learned habits. However, you can help it restore harmony if you will come back into a more natural timing of your sleep pattern. This means establishing your bed time at around 10:00 p.m. If you are currently in the habit of staying up much later, you can gradually move your bed time up by getting up a few minutes earlier each morning progressively for several days. This will make it easier to go to bed sooner until gradually you reach your target of a 10:00 bed time.

    2. “My mind won't quiet down.”
    The body may be ready to sleep, but as you know, you can’t sleep if your mind is speeding. It’s clear that the disease process of CFIDS affects the neurological system, and this may contribute to the speeding and agitated mind you experience at bed time. There are several ways you can work with this.

    First is to eliminate all stimulants from your diet and particularly caffeine (coffee, chocolate, black tea), even in the morning. Such stimulants take a long time to be detoxed and eliminated from your body, and their effects can linger far longer than they might in a normal healthy person.

    Second, finish your evening meal by 6:00 or 6:30 p.m., so your body's digestive processes can be at rest when you go to bed. If you need to alter your eating pattern earlier in the day to establish this, then work backward accordingly.

    Third, do not watch television in the evening. The whole purpose of television is to stimulate your neurological system as much as possible with bright flashing colors, sharp noises, compelling emotional images, etc. (In fact, you would do your neurological system a big favor to eliminate TV all together.) Let the evening hours be restful and non-stimulating so you can more easily calm the mind for sleep.

    Fourth, when your mind is speeding and you can’t get to sleep, give it a focus. This can be in the form of the repetition of a comforting word or phrase with each breath. For example, on the in-breath you may think to yourself “Breathing in,” and on the out-breath, “Breathing out.” Any word or phrase you prefer will do. The point is that you keep gently returning the mind to a comfortable, non-stimulating focus whenever you notice that it has wandered into stimulating thought.

    This mental focus process can go on as long as necessary. It is far preferable to do this than to allow the mind to become caught up in worry about the consequences of not sleeping. You are allowing the body to rest, and you are not stimulating the mind further with worrisome thoughts. Any degree of rest that you are capable of on a given night is a contribution to your healing.

    Editor’s Note: The full text of Dr. Collinge’s book Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A guide to Self-Empowerment is posted free on his Web site at, with a Spanish-language version in the works.

    by William Collinge, MpH, PhD

    Dr. Collinge is the author of Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A guide to Self-Empowerment (Putnam/Perigree, 1993).
  2. ilovecats94

    ilovecats94 New Member

    I really love staying up late at night, you know that. As a matter of a fact I need to go to bed soon as I have an appointment this afternoon.

    I was ready to go to bed around 1:55 AM, but when I went to lay down, my GERD started up, so I got up for just an hour or so and an hour has turned into 5.

    I wish there was a way I could just go on 5 or 6 hours of sleep and do well, but there isn't.

    Speaking of sleep, I need to set my alarm and go to bed soon.

  3. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    Good one!

    One of the first things the CFS specialist told me years ago was that if you can't sleep, you can't heal. I also appreciate the acknowledgement this article gives to our faulty neurological system. It may sound as if he's oversimplifying the problem but I also know that if I can shut off the "monkey brain", I can sleep.

    I've developed a very safe and very peaceful "place" I go in my mind when that happens - and because of anxiety, the "safe" part is very important. As sleep-disturbing thoughts come to mind, I put them into a "basket" (I've even envisioned how it looks) with a lid that can be locked. When my mind trys to go back to that particular concern, I remind it that it's locked away where it can't bother me. I think this is the focus the article talks about.

    I do this with each anxious thought and often, if I've diligently stayed away from sugar, I can go back to sleep.

    Also, like this article says, I've found that concentration on my breathing as well as breathing deeply and slowly is very important. I've also written down things that are worrying me so I can think about them the next day instead of at night. Since night wears a magnifing glass, by the next day they often aren't as big as they were the night before.

  4. shootingstar

    shootingstar New Member

    An ongoing major problem for me. I have not had a good night's sleep in well over twenty years -- it seems like forever. Sleep meds may knock me out a couple of hours more, but the artificial type of sleep they give does not help me feel rested.

    I've tried all the behavioral things to help, and they do help to some small extent, but they are not enough. I think there is some underlying hormonal dysfunction.

    If my sleep problems were cured I think I would be at least 90% fixed. How can you possibly function if you are sleep deprived over years at a time?
  5. caroleye

    caroleye New Member

    This not sleeping deeply for years has definitely affected us. I've done everything in the article, and much, much more to no avail.

    I stay in light sleep (theta waves) where I dream, dream, dream. Since my sleep meds feed "theta", although it helps, it still keeps me in that "light" dreamy space.

    My tests show deficiency in serotonin (delta waves), and so I'm still on the track of boosting my delta waves via neurofeedback.

    5htp helped until it started making me sick, so I "know" I'm serotonin deficient. And that's where the deep sleep lies.

  6. sleepyinlalaland

    sleepyinlalaland New Member

    completely baffles me.

    They start out by acknowledging "some researchers suspect that at the root of CFIDS and FM may actually be a primary sleep *disorder*." To me a DISORDER implies that something is not functioning properly. Then to assume that you need lessons in sleep hygiene is rather insulting.

    Of course all the advice noted in the article is good, common-sense advice. I have HAD to protect myself and have a peaceful evening routine for forever in order to get any rest. I do the breathing, the letting go of cares (I'm so tired I almost don't care about ANYTHING anymore), yet my brain remains unable to achieve or maintain any deep sleep.

    I'm sure it was a well-meaing article and I appreciate that they note that the sleep disorder is PRIMARY as I believe it is. But then to lead some to think that if only they just...

    Well, I think most of us know how it it's something else we're failing to achieve.
  7. Tantallon

    Tantallon New Member

    This is an interesting thread, thank you for posting it.

  8. jadibeler

    jadibeler New Member

    I added my answer to this thread but hit the wrong key and it ended up as a new post! So if anyone wants to read it, it's under "Bad Habit?", LOL.

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