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Is there a Way to Change the ‘Night Owl’ Syndrome?

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The single most important symptom to treat in CFIDS and fibromyalgia is the sleep disorder. This is because good quality sleep is necessary for healing.

Scientific evidence indicates that people with CFIDS and FM have a deficiency in “non-REM” sleep, a deep part of the sleep cycle that is critical for restoration and healing. So, even though you may be asleep for a lot of hours, if you are not getting adequate non-REM sleep, you will not awaken refreshed, and your body will not get the support it needs to restore health.

Some researchers suspect that at the root of CFIDS and FM may actually be a primary sleep disorder. This idea is supported by the findings of a Canadian researcher who studied the effects of non-REM sleep deprivation on a group of medical students. Over a period of several nights, each time the students were going into non-REM phase they would be deliberately disturbed.

The result was that in a few days they developed all the classic symptoms of CFIDS and FM.

Research has shown that the sleep medications currently available, while they may help you sleep, do not help with the disturbance of the non-REM phase. What can you do to support your body's need for good quality sleep? There are several issues you can address.

1. “Night People.” I know that many people consider themselves “night people,” going to bed in the early morning hours and sleeping later into the day. You may feel that you just can't get to sleep before 1:00 a.m., or your body just doesn't “want" to go to sleep earlier. Or perhaps you have operated this way for a number of years even before you got sick.

While this pattern may seem natural to you, it is a learned habit and is not a natural part of your body's metabolic functioning.

The body’s physiology and neurochemistry are designed to be responsive to the natural cycles of nature, including daylight and darkness. Your pineal gland, which regulates your hormonal system and is involved in the release of melatonin, is very sensitive to daylight and darkness.

Of course you can override your body’s natural functioning to some degree with learned habits. However, you can help it restore harmony if you will come back into a more natural timing of your sleep pattern. This means establishing your bed time at around 10:00 p.m.

If you are currently in the habit of staying up much later, you can gradually move your bed time up by getting up a few minutes earlier each morning progressively for several days. This will make it easier to go to bed sooner until gradually you reach your target of a 10:00 bed time.

2. “My mind won't quiet down.” The body may be ready to sleep, but as you know, you can’t sleep if your mind is speeding. It’s clear that the disease process of CFIDS/FM affects the neurological system, and this may contribute to the speeding and agitated mind you experience at bed time.

There are several ways you can work with this.

First is to eliminate all stimulants from your diet and particularly caffeine (coffee, chocolate, black tea) – even in the morning. Such stimulants take a long time to be detoxed and eliminated from your body, and their effects can linger far longer than they might in a normal healthy person.

Second, finish your evening meal by 6:00 or 6:30 p.m., so your body's digestive processes can be at rest when you go to bed. If you need to alter your eating pattern earlier in the day to establish this, then work backward accordingly.

Third, do not watch television in the evening. The whole purpose of television is to stimulate your neurological system as much as possible with bright flashing colors, sharp noises, compelling emotional images, etc. (In fact, you would do your neurological system a big favor to eliminate TV all together.)

Let the evening hours be restful and non-stimulating so you can more easily calm the mind for sleep.

Fourth, when your mind is speeding and you can’t get to sleep, give it a focus. This can be in the form of the repetition of a comforting word or phrase with each breath. For example, on the in-breath you may think to yourself “Breathing in,” and on the out-breath, “Breathing out.” Any word or phrase you prefer will do.

The point is that you keep gently returning the mind to a comfortable, non-stimulating focus whenever you notice that it has wandered into stimulating thought.

This mental focus process can go on as long as necessary. It is far preferable to do this than to allow the mind to become caught up in worry about the consequences of not sleeping. You are allowing the body to rest, and you are not stimulating the mind further with worrisome thoughts.

Any degree of rest that you are capable of on a given night is a contribution to your healing.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is reproduced here with kind permission of Dr. Collinge (for much more, see his educational website at www.collinge.org), and is for general information purposes only. It is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.

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3 thoughts on “Is there a Way to Change the ‘Night Owl’ Syndrome?”

  1. rprat says:

    I have known the above information for years since it seems to me I was born with this. Certainly from Kindergarten on mornings were something to be reckoned with. I have got more value going down the Candida road, looking at adrenal support now. Drenamin is highly recommended by a source I have liked, but anything with gluten in it compounds all of this and that appears to have wheat germ as an ingredient, so I hesitate. I will say in the last week, while waiting on another adrenal supplement, lemon balm from my neighbor’s garden makes a good tea, and mixing Valerian in at night, I have been up 1 or 2 hours earlier for a week. When it is a year, then maybe I have something, but I do go to bed about an hour and a half earlier now and I do get up about 2 or more hours earlier, better sleep, more reasonable time, wake up better. I believe the mind is powerful. I have not tapped it at the level suggested in this article, so the calming aids seem to be very helpful for me, but I have tried many. Lemon balm does not float to the top on the searches, but boy, for this person writing this, it did something nothing else has done.

  2. rprat says:

    Funny I should mention that here. The fibro sleep product sold here has lemon balm and valerian in it. And I put peppermint in once because it was calling for it, also in this product. Might be worth a try for someone whose neighbor isn’t growing the stuff. Maybe I will try in the winter when it’s out of season.

  3. aym says:

    After being told that if “going to bed earlier” wasn’t going to solve it, I ought to just find a job that fit my schedule better, I did some research. Here’s what’s worked for me. After a few years I was able to taper down to a more flexible schedule.

    Overall, I do….

    1) dim lights only (or pointed away from me) after sunset, or essentially after the desired melatonin start (see #2)
    2) 2.5-3mg melatonin (time release not necessary) at about 8:30 -> 2-3 hours before desired bedtime; been trying FibroSleep here too
    3) start dawn simulator on 1.5 hour ramp up to finish when my alarm goes off (no longer necessary)
    4) wake up every morning about same time and use box for about 30 minutes @10,000 lux (sometimes I sleep through it)
    5) make sure to turn box OFF after enough light.

    I use timers to regulate #;s 2, 3, 4, and 5 so I don’t goof. After a few weeks getting up on time and going to bed on time just became easy to do most days. I still slide some days, but rarely. For a while I was “up, but cranky”. Now I’m just “up”. Now, after 7 years, I can generally miss things here and there and I’ll still be fine. The light box is rarely used (by me) anymore either, but it was critical for the first 5-6 years.

    Be sure to get a strong enough and convenient enough light box. Having it hanging over the head of my bed (from the bedside table side) allows me to reach up and turn it on in the morning. If I had to move it would happen with far less regularity.

    The smaller the box, the closer you have to get, or the longer you have to use it. You generally need to be facing it, but can watch TV or read or work on the computer or sleep – as long as your face is facing it at least a bit more than halfway. I recommend 10,000 lux at 18+ inches, off hand. It looks like the visor one offered by ProHealth meets the requirements and is like my travel one. With lights on in the room you’ll be able to manage fine getting around. MHO – don’t be fooled by the cheap less powerful light boxes – they’re not powerful to do the trick.

    Also, if you’re using it for sleep a desk lamp isn’t a great option. Along the lines of regulating melatonin I try hard not to expose myself to bright lights after I get home in the evening, so using a bright light to study by at night would probably reset your clock in the wrong direction. My understanding is BEFORE the body’s current midday time will set the sleep cycle earlier, and AFTER will set it later, and presumeably the farther before the better. See the details on DSPS (delayed sleep phase syndrome) on https://www.sunbox.com/Research/SCRD.asp.

    As I said, I’m a success story. Pre-fibro I burned the candle at both ends and stayed up until 2-3 then slept until 6ish. Then, with fibro, I slept 3 to 9 or 10AM, which was hurting my 9-5 job. Now, I sleep from about 10-11PM to 5-6AM and generally wake pretty refreshed. It’s been a life-saver and a job-saver!


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