Sunday, October 20, 2013

Changes for Better Sleep with Fibromyalgia

Insomnia was one of the symptoms that helped my doctor diagnose Fibromyalgia.  For some reason, we fibromites cannot seem to reach the deepest stages of sleep, and frequently, it can be difficult to get much sleep at all.  I have spent several years, including a handful of really bad months straight, waking up around 2am or so and not falling asleep for several hours, or sometimes, not falling asleep at all the entire night.  Today, thankfully, I have finally got a good routine of sleep going again.  If I can't get the quality of sleep I need, I'm at least getting the quantity, which still makes a big difference for me and my sanity.  So, for those of you going mad from insomnia, I thought I'd share what seems to be helping me catch more Z's.

Several things have changed for me, including the meds I take, as well as several of my habits and personal goals.  I try to notice correlations between how I feel and what I do or what is happening when I have questions about new or persistent symptoms that pop-up.

Journaling
I can't say enough about journaling, blogging, or at least keeping track of things quickly in a calendar or other logging medium.  When you wonder how long a symptom has been around, check your entries and eliminate the need for guessing.  If you wonder if the weather is behind an infrequent symptom, check your entries for clues.  When it's time to visit the doctor, prepare with bullet points and questions after reviewing your entries since the last visit.  Write stuff down, even if you don't think it's relevant.  Sometimes that added detail can be important later on.

Medications & Supplements
Firstly, like many of you, I am side-effect sensitive to lots of medications.  I've tried Lyrica, Cymbalta, Savella, I'd been on SSRIs and SNRIs, muscle relaxants, and Rx opioids for pain, plus several supplements, per my various doctors over the years.  I'm now happy to be OFF the meds that raised my blood pressure and body temperature and caused me more grief than relief for many months leading up to early last year.  I now only take one medication regularly: cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril).  I take it at night to allow the drowsiness help me fall asleep while it works to help relax my muscles.  I love it when I can get more than one benefit from one thing.  The muscles aren't "fixed", but it definitely helps and also helps me feel sleepy at bedtime.  I'm very glad the same dose is still effective for me, too.  On top of everything else, it's not a new drug, so I can get the generic version and not worry about ridiculous insurance copays.  (Stressing over health costs does not help one get sleep.)

Caffeine
My coffee maker sits in the pantry unless we have guests over.  I like the taste of black coffee and used to drink cup after delicious (and free) cup in the office, enjoying the warmth and aromas all day long. My husband warned me that I would become addicted.  "Pish posh," I told him.  "Caffeine doesn't do anything to me."  However, he was vindicated when he pointed out that I was getting headaches around the same time and day each weekend.  Needless to say, these headaches unnecessarily contributed to my less than restful weekends.  Once I realized my body was addicted to the caffeine, I made a conscious effort to reduce my intake of regular coffee at the office until I found a good balance.  So I now have one cup, or occasionally two cups of black regular coffee on any given day, before lunch time, and then switch to decaf, tea, or water for the rest of the day.  No more weekly headaches and sleep is much more available to me now.  I also stay hydrated better, which keeps headaches away as well.  It does make a difference after all.

Food
Another habit that have changed is my eating habits.  Over a year ago, I started eating fresh salads full of veggies, fruits, and healthy proteins and fats (beans, avocado, fish, etc.) every work day at lunch time, from a Whole Foods Market near my work.  I love fresh produce and I love knowing it's good for my body and filled with healthy fiber, water, and various nutrients to give my body a fighting chance against whatever is out of order.  I started on the salads to help me lose some weight, but optimizing my health is most important to me.

I also started mixing up smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables after I saw a Vitamix demonstration at that Whole Foods one day.  I tasted a green smoothie that was made before my eyes with nothing more than a huge wad of spinach, banana, and some pineapple chunks (and water).  It was like green candy!  I was inspired and started pricing the fancy blenders that night.  Yikes, they are expensive!  Then I realized my blender at home (Waring Pro) has plenty of horsepower in the motor to blend up smoothies at home at no additional cost!  

I started with some simple recipes I found online (including that spinach, banana and pineapple wonder) to get the proportions right, but after a few times, I eyeballed everything and made up new recipes.  Pinterest has plenty of interesting smoothie recipes to try.  It wasn't until my husband wanted to lose some weight that he got into making smoothies every weekday morning for breakfast, and a full pitcher is enough for 2 servings, so I get whatever he makes.  I really love them!  If you like fruit, but hate the veggies you know you should eat, definitely try blending them together for a tasty and nutritious, and easy to digest meal.  You can get creative and add all sorts of fun things, like nuts, seeds, honey, dark chocolate, nut butters, squashes... anything you can blend, basically.  Experiment and find your favorites.

Physical Activity
I made a pretty easy resolution this year to make sure I exercise at least a little bit every few days.  I have been doing yoga classes weekly, but when those went away, I took what I learned from class and did my own custom routines at home.  Yoga is one of several activities I do for exercise.  Others including walking, getting on the elliptical machine, stair-climbing, and various gentle stretches and exercises for my hips and back - areas I need to keep strong and stretched to keep some of my troublesome symptoms down.  The idea is to keep moving to try to prevent those awful muscle spasms, keep my blood circulating, and of course, to keep my weight healthy.  I noticed that keeping track of my activities helps motivate me to do more.  I provide a link to my activities in this exercise focused post.

Sleeping Positions
Before Fibromyalgia came along, I always used to prefer sleeping on my side, but I recently started to notice that, although I can fall asleep on my side, I almost always wake up on my back.  I used to hate sleeping on my back, but with everything in some level of pain, it makes sense that my hips, knees, and shoulders all feel better when I'm not putting pressure on them.  So now, when I'm ready to go to sleep, I frequently settle into position on my back with my head slightly turned to one side, especially in the middle of the night, or if I'm having a particularly painful spasm at bed time.

Everyone is different, of course, and there may be things I didn't remember to list or didn't realize make a difference with sleep.  If you have other tips for better sleep for fibromites, please feel free to comment.  Sweet dreams.