I fully intended to get this blog posted back in May during Better Sleep month but, as is often the case, life got in the way. I have struggled for years with getting good quality sleep. There are nights where I just cannot fall asleep, and others where I just can’t stay asleep. While the ideal amount is between 7-9 hours for most, I still average about 6 hours a night. More than 7 hours of sleep, and I feel out of sorts. Lately I have been much better about sleeping through the night, since incorporating some simple strategies.
Those who suffer with fibromyalgia syndrome know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleep disturbances are one of the common symptoms associated with the condition, which then compounds the daytime fatigue. But allowing the body to rest and recharge at night is so critical to everyone’s physical and mental health, not just those with fibromyalgia.
“Sleep is the Golden Chain that binds health and our bodies together.”
~ Thomas Dekker
That old saying “early to bed, early to rise makes your body healthy, wealthy, and wise” is more than just an old wives’ tale. Here’s a list of health benefits from getting adequate sleep:
- It can help you fight off diseases
- It can help improve your mood
- It can lower your risk for obesity and help you lose weight
- It can decrease inflammation
- It allows the body to repair itself from stress and ultraviolet exposure
“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.”
― Arianna Huffington
Getting those Zzzz’s
While you sleep, your body is working to heal itself, build up your immune system, and recharge your brain cells. Now the struggle is that people with fibromyalgia have trouble falling and staying asleep. We often don’t reach that deep sleep stage required for all of the restorative health benefits. There are a myriad of underlining conditions that could be preventing you from getting a good night’s rest:
- Health Issues such as allergies, sleep apnea, asthma, narcolepsy, or hormone imbalance
- Physical Issues such as chronic or acute pain, or certain prescription drugs
- Mental Issues such as depression, stress, or anxiety
- Environmental Issues such as too much light in your room, drinking alcohol or caffeine, or performing shift work
So assuming you don’t need to have a medical condition checked out, how do you improve your sleep, to reap those benefits? Getting into a routine helps. Here are some simple strategies that might help you establish that routine:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Set a regular bedtime routine.
- Curb the electronics in the bedroom, that is no TV, iPad, etc. before bed.
- Keep your bedroom comfortable, quiet, dark and cool.
- Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime, and don’t eat 3 hours before bed.
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Do not use tobacco.
“Golden Slumbers fill your eyes. Smiles await when you rise.” ~ The Beatles
As we age we need less sleep, but we still need good quality sleep. Uninterrupted sleep. One of the best habits is to take a warm bath or shower before bed. This raises the body temperature, and then allows it to cool down faster, which helps you reach that deep sleep. Couple that with some aromatherapy, and you should feel relaxed and calm for bedtime. I developed my routine after reading Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive that discussed redefining success and details her wake-up call. She has another book called The Sleep Revolution that undoubtedly has more information on the subject of sleep as well.
Here are some of my favorite bedtime and bath aids:
- Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Soaking Solution (regular or Lavender)
- Bath and Body Works Lavender Vanilla Bath Soak, Body Spray, and Pillow Mist
- Or here are some recipes to make your own bath therapy blend
- Aura Cacia Lavender Essential Oil I add a few drops to my bath or rub a few drops between my toes when I dry off
- Herbal teas: Good Earth Sweet and Spicy or Traditional Medicinals has great teas to help you sleep, to calm your stomach, etc. Just make sure they are caffeine free!
So go draw a bath, sip some tea, rub some lavender oil between your toes and get a good night’s sleep. These are my tried and true methods. You’ll thank me in the morning!
For more sleep strategies, visit the National Sleep Foundation,”The F Word” blog and Sarah’s Fibromyalgia Sleep Chronicles series, or listen to JJ Virgin’s podcast with Arianna Huuffington – two big proponents of sleep! Do you have other sleep strategies you use?