Fibromyalgia and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand. How long has it been since you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep – the kind of sleep where you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to greet the new day? If you can’t even remember the last time, you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 70 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder.
The inability to sleep well is a common symptom of many chronic illnesses, including fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and Lyme disease. If you’ve been battling insomnia for very long, you’ve probably tried numerous sleep aids, both natural and pharmaceutical. But here are three natural remedies you may not be aware of:
1. Essential Oils
Lavender essential oil is known for its calming properties and is the scent most often associated with sleep. Multiple studies have confirmed that lavender essential oil does indeed promote sleep. One particularly interesting study was conducted at Wesleyan University.
31 participants breathed lavender essential oil one night and distilled water another night for four two-minutes periods – with 10-minute intervals between – before bedtime. Researchers measured participants’ brain waves as they slept. They found that breathing the lavender oil increased the percentage of deep (slow-wave) sleep. The study concluded that “lavender serves as a mild sedative and has practical applications as a novel, nonphotic method for promoting deep sleep in young men and women.”
Vetiver, another sleep-promoting essential oil, is one you may not be familiar with. With its earthy scent, vetiver is best known for its quality of being deeply grounding, but it is also known and often used to promote a restful night’s sleep.
Other essential oils beneficial for sleep include bergamot, frankincense, Roman chamomile, marjoram, valerian root, clary sage, ylang ylang, and wild orange.
Fibromyalgia and Sleep: How to use essential oils
There are several different effective techniques for using essential oils:
- Put two to six drops of one oil or a combination of oils in a diffuser.
- Apply one or two drops topically to the bottom of your feet or the back of your neck. If your skin tends to be sensitive, you might want to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba, sweet almond or coconut oil.
- Place a drop of the essential oil in the palm of your hand, then cup your hands over your nose and inhale.
- Put a couple of drops of oil on a cotton ball and place under your pillow. This is especially good to do with lavender oil.
- Add a few drops of oil to a warm bath. Relax and inhale the scent as you soak in the tub.
Experiment with different oil combinations and techniques to find what works best for you.
When it comes to supplements for fibromyalgia, magnesium doesn’t usually come to mind. However, 400 – 500 mg of magnesium before bedtime may be just the fix you need to get a better night’s sleep.
According to a 1985 USDA survey, 75% to 85% of American adults consume less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Therefore, it’s not surprising that people with fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and Lyme disease are generally found to have a magnesium deficiency. Perhaps not coincidently, they also typically struggle with insomnia. Magnesium is essential for the production of the GABA, a calming neurotransmitter for both our body and mind.
Since oral magnesium supplements are sometimes poorly absorbed, especially if you have digestive issues, as is common in many fibromyalgia patients, it may be best to try applying magnesium topically in lotion, cream or oil form.
3. Negative Ion-Infused Sleepwear
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We all want something comfortable to sleep in, but did you know that there is one type of sleepwear that offers much more than just comfort? Goodnighties sleepwear is made from fabric that is not only incredibly soft but has also been infused with negative ions.
Through eight decades of research, scientists have discovered that exposing soft skin tissue to negative ions helps balance and counteract the not-so-positive effects of the positive ions that bombard us from things like pollution, computers and TV screens. Some of the beneficial effects of negative ions that may aid in improving sleep quality and promoting overall health include:
• Increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, which can have profound effects on sleep patterns.
• Producing biochemical reactions that regulate serotonin levels.
• Increasing melatonin, which helps to synchronize our biological clocks.
• Helping us reach the REM stage of sleep more quickly and stay there longer.
• Increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and joints, which promotes pain relief.
• Restoring the body’s pH balance by promoting an alkaline reaction in the cells.
• Protecting against germs and boosting the immune system. (Positively charged germs are neutralized by negative ions.)
I can personally attest to the benefits of Goodnighties because I’ve been wearing them for almost nine years now. Since the first night I put them on, I’ve found that I consistently sleep for much longer periods of time and wake up feeling refreshed – something I hadn’t experienced since developing fibromyalgia symptoms and ME/CFS more than 15 years earlier.
For anyone going through fibromyalgia treatments, sleep is a crucial part of controlling control pain and aiding your recovery. For a better night’s sleep, give these sleep tips a try!
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on March 31, 2016 and was updated on December 19, 2019.
Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.
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