woman waking with fibromyalgia in bed

What is Fibromyalgia and how it Affects Sleep?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain and muscle stiffness in various parts of the body. It’s often accompanied by chronic fatigue, stress, and sleep loss. According to Arthritis Australia, this upsets 2% to 5% of the population affecting a majority of women.

Too often people misdiagnosed their symptoms as arthritis, but it may be fibromyalgia. That’s because it has the same symptoms of arthritis. However, fibromyalgia can be also a symptom of an underlying illness as well.

There is no known cure for the disease, but instilling healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet, or sleeping well at night might curb fibromyalgia.

What are the causes of fibromyalgia?

Doctors come together to form a hypothetical answer on how fibromyalgia started. They believe that certain nerve stimulation causes the brain to signal pain and create a memory of the pain which may become more sensitive. It’s all about how your brain and spinal cord process pain from different factors:

Lifestyle factors

Living off unhealthily can direct you to a life prone to diseases. Mostly, weight gain can trigger body pains such as in the hips, legs, or spine. It can also ruin your sleep schedule due to complications like sleep apnea, hip displacement, restlessness, acid reflux, and more.

Underlying illnesses

There are certain medical conditions that trigger fibromyalgia such as arthritis, pneumonia, lupus, and more on autoimmune diseases. However, people with rheumatoid arthritis and spinal arthritis are prone to have fibromyalgia.

Hereditary

If you have a family member who’s experiencing fibromyalgia, there’s a high chance that you’re at risk for developing it. Scientists think gene mutations affected the signals in the brain when it comes to receiving pain.

Brain injury

Similarly, an injury to the brain can send mixed signals of pain receptors due to the damaged neurotransmitters. An accident is often the leading cause of brain injury in Australia which accounts for 107 per 100,000 of the population.

Emotional trauma and stress

Emotional trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression, and stress can have a toll on your brain’s activity and sensors that could trigger fibromyalgia.

Doctors couldn’t solely point how chronic pain and fibromyalgia happen. Lowered pain receptors are one theory they have deduced because, over time, people with this condition suffer sensitivity toward pain.

man talking to doctor about fibromyalgia

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is also known as “regions of pain” where it has “trigger points” in the body similar to a dull ache. There are diagnostic criteria for doctors to know whether you’re suffering from the condition or not. However, many patients experience the following symptoms:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Insomnia
  3. Hypersomnia
  4. Stress
  5. Anxiety
  6. Depression
  7. Pain in the belly or pelvic region
  8. Trouble focusing, remembering, and concentrating
  9. Blurry vision and dry eyes
  10.  Bladder problems

Why women though? Fibromyalgia is also present in men, but the symptoms are more compact and severe in women. Other than the symptoms above, women experience heavy pain, irritable bowel, frequent dysmenorrhea, and chronic fatigue.

Women with menopause are also at risk of fibromyalgia.

Arthritis vs. fibromyalgia

Too often people have been led to believe that what they’re experiencing is not fibromyalgia, but arthritis. However, the two terms have different pressure points, although rheumatoid and spinal arthritis can be underlying causes of fibromyalgia.

So, how to differentiate one from the other?

Tender points. Fibromyalgia causes pain and stiffness in connective tissues, while arthritis causes pain in certain joints. The former often have pain that feels tender or sunburned in the back of the head, arms, lower back, torso, thighs, and buttocks. Arthritis has pain and swelling in joints only that are felt on both sides.

Condition. Fibromyalgia is more of a neurological condition as the receptors in the brain send mixed or exaggerated signals of pain. Meanwhile, arthritis is an autoimmune condition that harms the tissues which affect the joints, leading to inflammation and pain.

Sleep disturbances. Both conditions can lead to sleep loss and disturbance at night. However, studies show that women with fibromyalgia have a harder time falling to sleep and likely more to suffer daytime sleepiness.

woman massaging the neck fibromyalgia

Treatment for fibromyalgia

While there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, one can lead a healthy lifestyle through medications, lifestyle changes, and self-care practices.

Medications

Medications can be used to manage fibromyalgia symptoms. People with the condition usually avail of prescriptions for pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Some doctors prescribed antidepressants for those who have trouble managing depressive moods.

Light stretching or exercises

When in pain, do some stretches or low yoga practices to reduce stress and improve sleep. Don’t try to do high-intensity integral training while experiencing fibromyalgia as it might add to the pain. There’s little study on how a workout reduces fibromyalgia symptoms.

Eat a healthy diet

Patients with fibromyalgia report of feeling better if they follow a certain diet. For instance, eating a lot of vegetables and limiting meat intake reduce pain. Cutting sugars and drinking lots of water also prevent symptoms from getting worse.

Invest on a good mattress

Chronic pain affects millions of adults in Australia due to bad beddings and its constant discomfort. To reduce backaches and neck pains, invest in a comfortable mattress that leaves you well-rested throughout the night. A well-sound mattress gives you a run for your money in the long-term while alleviating your body aches.

Try meditation to reduce stress

Anxiety and depression can often lead to restless nights. It’ll also cause your brain to mess up the signals on your pain receptors. Try relaxation therapies or meditation to ease the mind and body of stress. You can try deep breathing exercises or listen to peaceful music.

Establish a nighttime routine

People who suffer from stress and anxiety will find it beneficial to instill relaxing activities at night. You can wind down and take a warm bath, read a book, or write a journal to take off heavy feelings. Try meditating for at least five minutes. It can help boost your mind and sleep quality.

Change your sleep environment

If you turn the lights dimmer lower the AC on, you help put yourself into sleep mode by inducing melatonin with these methods. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. By adjusting our sleep environment, our minds can be tricked into sleeping faster and better at night.

Put away your gadgets

We’re all guilty of spending an hour on our phones, TVs, or computers. Whether that’d be for Netflix, social media, or watching funny animal videos, we just can’t help steal a glance from our gadgets. But if you want to sleep well at night, you need to put down your gadgets. That’s because it emits blue lights that can keep you awake at night.

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