By Donna Gregory Burch
Nonrestorative sleep is one of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia. But words like “nonrestorative” and “unrefreshing” don’t adequately describe fibro sleep.
Instead, I like to reference one of my hubby’s favorite TV shows when I try to explain to healthy people what I feel like when I wake up in the morning. I call it “The Walking Dead” kind of tired. If you’ve ever watched the way those zombies shuffle along and gurgle, that’s a pretty good representation of me in the morning.
Well, it turns out those of us with fibromyalgia have reason to be tired. Last year, Dr. Victor Rosenfeld from SouthCoast Health in Savannah, Georgia, published a study, which found alpha waves in the brains of fibromyalgia patients during sleep. Alpha waves are created by the brain when awake, but they’re not supposed to show up when we’re sleeping.
During a TV interview, Rosenfeld said, “In essence, people with fibromyalgia are pulling an all-nighter every single night.”
Yep, that’s about how it feels.
If I’m going to be pulling an all-nighter without knowing it, then at least I want to have some fun doing it, so today I thought I would share a few unusual things I’ve read about (and a couple I’ve used personally) to help improve sleep.
When I was a child, we lived in a drafty old farmhouse, and on particularly cold nights, my mom would put a heavy blanket on top of my other bedding. It was stifling and comforting all at the same time. Now I know why.
That extra weight is a form of deep pressure touch stimulation, a therapy that increases serotonin and an overall sense of wellbeing.
Some companies are now selling blankets weighted down with pockets of plastic poly pellets. The added weight supposedly gives a “warm hug” to the body.
At least two studies have confirmed weighted blankets are effective at relieving anxiety, and they’ve been used to improve the sleep of patients with autism, restless legs, Alzheimer’s and other conditions.
Honey and salt
I first saw this hack on Pinterest. It says to mix honey (preferably raw) and Himalayan salt, and then take a spoonful before bed. This concoction is supposed to stabilize blood sugar levels, so you’re less likely to get that 4 a.m. wakeup call and not be able to fall back to sleep.
I tried it a couple of nights and didn’t see a difference, but I have some fibro friends who swear by this trick.
A few months after my diagnosis, I developed a nasty case of restless legs syndrome. The culprit? Amitriptyline, the antidepressant my doctor had given me to help me sleep. Oh, the irony!
I didn’t want to add another prescription medication for restless legs to fix the problem caused by the Amitriptyline, so I went online to look for home remedies, and Pinterest came to the rescue again!
If you unwrap a bar of soap and put it near your feet at the end of the bed, it’s supposed to calm restless legs. Yep, I know how loony that sounds! But I tried it, and it worked! My husband still makes fun of me for it, but it was a cheap solution to a troubling problem.
I know it was probably just the placebo effect, but a whole lot of other people also claim it’s worked for them, too.
If you thought I was nutty for putting soap at the end of my bed, then I’m probably going to lose all credibility when I tell you I like to watch videos of people whispering and touching things. ASMR videos are one of my best-kept secrets for better sleep.
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and it refers to that tingling sensation that you feel in your scalp or the back of your neck when you hear someone talk or touch objects in a certain way. Not everyone experiences the actual ASMR sensation, but everyone can benefit from the relaxing aspects of watching ASMR videos – if you can get past the weirdness of it.
On nights when I just can’t fall asleep, I cue up some of my favorite YouTube videos from Maria, the queen of ASMR. Her soft Russian accent helps lull me to sleep. Yep, I know it’s strange, but it works every time.
The Rabbit book
A lot of us read before turning in for the night. Now there’s a book that claims it can actually put us to sleep. I haven’t read “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep” myself, but one of my fibro friends reviewed it a few months ago on her blog February Stars.
The author is a Swedish psychologist who used research to write a children’s book that’s intended to induce sleep. Based on Amazon reviews, it’s put plenty of children to slumber and more than a few adults, too.
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.