Much research has been done concerning the connection of FMS and sleep. The main issue seems to be that many people with Fibro have a disordered pattern to their sleep cycles. There are several different stages of sleep during the night. When we are in our deepest level of sleep (known as delta sleep) we have an inhibition of the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis (HPA) which helps the body manufacture somatomedin C, which is a growth hormone (HGH).
Growth hormone is not only important during our childhood but we need it as adults to help tissue heal. That is why the deepest levels of sleep are known as the levels of “restorative” sleep. When we move and exercise there are small microscopic changes or breakdowns in our muscles. These microscopic changes in people with normal growth hormone levels heal rapidly and there is no true discomfort. With FMS and lower levels of somatomedin C (HGH), the tissue doesn’t heal readily. Stiffness, pain and muscle fatigue result and this has a cascading effect on a person’s overall activity level. This is one of the main reasons why many with FMS become deconditioned. It is not because they are lazy or don’t want to exercise: it is because they truly can’t. It just hurts too much. The “post exertional soreness” that non fibro people feel after a “good” workout at the gym goes away in a day. In actuality many people even enjoy that slight soreness that happens after a “good workout” because they know that in a day or so, they will feel great again and be ready to hit the gym. Sadly this is often not the case for those with FMS.
In my office, I constantly see this as a major point of confusion even with many health care providers who wrongly minimize the patient’s true condition and dismiss them by suggesting that they are deconditioned and just need to exercise more. This point has become extremely irritating to me because I hear it repeated so often. With Fibro patients, less is more. If a patient with low HGH is told to work out harder in order to get in better condition, they will likely find themselves not only frustrated but often in a severe Fibro Flare. Only a patient with FMS can know the real frustration that comes when a health care provider or maybe a spouse thinks that they are lazy for not working out. This is the reason why there are times when I ask patients if they would like to bring their spouse along so that I can explain some of the true “chemical” reasons why people with FMS can’t just “work through the pain”.
How do you get a more restorative sleep and boost levels of HGH?
First and foremost, the patient should realize that it is not the quantity of sleep as much as the quality. Getting into those deep levels of sleep is what is most important because that is when most of our brain chemistry is manufactured. I realize that there are many prescription sleep aids that are now on the market and although they will make you sleep, they don’t seem to provide a “normal” pattern and subsequently do little to change HGH levels.
In my practice I first suggest a patient take 5HTP, which is a precursor to tryptophan. I also often will recommend 3mg. of melatonin 30 minutes before sleep. Both of these products are natural and help the body get into a “normal” cycle or pattern of sleep.
Another incredibly beneficial aid to good restorative sleep is meditation and deep breathing techniques. This does more than just relax a person but helps to set the stage for someone to enter stage 4 delta sleep more readily. Again, this is the most important level of sleep for those needing an increase in those all important neurochemicals like HGH. I will often advise people to listen to some guided imagry CDs or download the CDs unto their IPODS. We recommend many meditative CDs offered through our Amazon A-store.
Though this is a very brief discussion of the science of sleep and the connection it has to FMS, I wanted to at least make people aware of that very important connection. I encourage you to become a member of our site as we will be getting into much more detail on this and more Fibromyalgia topics in our forums, our chats and podcasts.