Fibromyalgia is a neurological disease which affects two to four percent of the population. Experts say that fibromyalgia is under diagnosed because it is hard to confirm. The disease can manifest as a wide range of symptoms, and each case is unique. The common symptoms include chronic, generalized pain, fatigue, and fibromyalgia tender points.
Individuals with fibromyalgia often experience poor quality of sleep. The reasons for this include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and chronic pain. Fibromyalgia patients often pursue non-pharmacological interventions such as using the right mattress to increase the quality of sleep. The right mattress can make a large-scale difference in a person’s management of fatigue.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
You may or may not be familiar with everything that Fibromyalgia entails. Below, we’ll provide a general overview, illustrate causes, diagnosis, symptoms, and more.
Definition and Causes
Fibromyalgia is a condition of the nervous system which leads to disrupted pain processing within the body. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and may be different from case to case. Experts suggest genetics, traumatic injury, stress, and viral infections as possible causes
Research shows that fibromyalgia patients often have increased “Substance P” in the spinal fluid. Research has also found that fibromyalgia patients have decreased serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is found primarily in the gut and in the brain. The problem is that researchers do not know if these common attributes are a symptom of the disease or are causing the disease.
In 1990 the American College of Rheumatology formalized the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. This standard included the fact that a fibromyalgia patient would have chronic and generalized pain. The word “chronic” means that the pain lasts more than three months. “Generalized” means that the pain occurs in all four quadrants of the body: upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left.
The diagnostic criteria also included the fact that a patient must also experience tender points in 11 of the 18 specific fibromyalgia tender point sites. A tender point is a place on the body that has increased sensitivity to even the slightest pressure.
In 2010 the college updated the rules so that the 11 of 18 tender points were not necessary to confirm a diagnosis. When a doctor diagnoses fibromyalgia, he or she must rule out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms. The doctor can order an MRI and blood work to rule out cancer, thyroid disease, anemia, and other illnesses.
The average age of fibromyalgia onset is middle age, but there can also be children or older adults with fibro onset. Eighty to ninety percent of fibromyalgia patients are women.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from case to case. In addition to the primary symptoms of chronic generalized pain, fatigue, and tender points, patients can experience any of these associated symptoms:
- Memory loss
- Urinary spasms
- Painful menstrual cycle (women)
- Dry mouth
- Numbness and tingling in extremities
- Body temperature changes
- Cramps in legs
- Morning stiffness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, although lots of research is being done to help people better understand this disease, and hopefully find a cure. The current treatment model centers around improving the quality of life. Patients are advised to seek help from professionals to manage chronic pain.
Lifestyle changes such as cutting back on the hours of work, and getting more rest can significantly relieve symptoms. Improvements in sleep routine and body positioning have also been shown to help. Treatment options will be different in each case. The best treatment plans match an intervention to the specific symptoms a person is experiencing.
Fibromyalgia and Sleep: Fatigue Symptoms
Fibromyalgia patients suffer from an increased sense of fatigue. The fatigue begins as soon as they wake up, and carries throughout the day. Patients often report that they must rest during the day, and cannot perform the daily activities that they used to before the onset of the disease.
The link between fibromyalgia and sleep disturbance can contribute to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. It also is a factor in causing “fibro fog” which is a collection of cognitive symptoms.
What Is “Fibro Fog”?
Pain and fatigue can lead to a group of cognitive impairments known as “fibro fog”. A patient suffering from fibro fog has an impaired ability to focus or remember details. They might have trouble doing complex mental tasks, or solving problems.
Also, it can become hard to think clearly and hold a conversation, because of a lack of focus and difficulty with expression and mental processing.
Living with fibro fog can be extremely frustrating. Patients report that they often lose their keys or wallets, forget about plans they have made, and have trouble recalling details. In some cases, a person may have to change jobs to live with this condition.
A person with fibro fog can manage his or her condition by working to relieve the underlying pain and fatigue which contribute to the state.
Some tricks can help people live with fibro fog while it is happening. Taking notes during detailed conversations, inviting a witness to doctor’s appointments, and using lanyards for keys, glasses, and even a wallet can help to reduce frustration in daily life.
Causes of Sleep Cycle Disruption: Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg, Discomfort
The cause of fatigue varies from patient to patient. Authorities estimate that almost half of all patients with fibromyalgia develop sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea causes disturbed sleep. Generalized or point-specific pain can cause insomnia. In some cases, a patient’s sleep disturbance is due to restless leg syndrome.
Because different causes require different treatments, it is necessary for a fibro patient to try to pinpoint the reasons for disturbed sleep cycle. A sleep study performed by a professional can identify the problems that are occurring.
How to Sleep Better with Fibromyalgia
There are several ways to manage sleep disturbances. If sleep apnea is a contributing factor, an individual can work with their health care provider to investigate whether a CPAP machine is needed. Some patients with sleep apnea also use a dental device, or just avoid sleeping on their backs.
Medications can help alleviate restless leg syndrome. Experts suggest that exercise and activity during the day could improve restless leg symptoms at night.
Proper pain management can significantly improve the quality of sleep. Over-the-counter medications and ointments, herbal supplements, alternative therapies, or prescribed pills can work for individual cases.
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Best Mattress for Fibromyalgia
Since fibro patients have a higher sensitivity to pain, they often feel high levels of pain. Fibromyalgia tender points are areas on the body where slight pressure causes a lot of pain. The best mattress for fibromyalgia patients will relieve pressure on those tender points.
A hard, traditional, or worn out mattress without any covering, might be unbearable for a patient with fibromyalgia. Body alignment and positioning are vital to a fibro patients well-being, and an old mattress can cause the body to get trapped in misaligned positioning.
A new bed which supports the sleepers body alignment will be much better than a used one for a fibro patient. A layer of padding over the mattress will help to alleviate pressure at tender points.
What to Look for In a Mattress
When a fibromyalgia patient looks for a mattress that will alleviate their symptoms, they should consider three things: specific symptom management, budget parameters, and consideration for the spouse.
To find the right mattress, a patient will need to be very clear about what their exact symptoms are. This clarity can be challenging because sleep has different levels. The symptoms that occur when a patient is trying to fall asleep might be apparent, while problems that arise while they are in the sleep state remain unknown.
A sleep study will monitor brain waves, body movements, and sleep cycles to get a clear picture. This information will help a patient target the problems that they face. If a sleep study is not possible, a patient could get his or her spouse to monitor sleep and take notes. This second party input might provide clues, such as snoring, twitching, spasms, or movement in the legs.
Forgiving but Not Too Soft
Patients with fibromyalgia have increased sensitivity to pain. The slightest pressure could cause shooting pain. This sensitivity is neurologic. Some pain medications can dull the pain, but will not entirely make it go away. Mitigating this pain in other ways is very important.
The right mattress will allow a patient to sleep in several positions without compressing or jamming the joints. When a person lies on his or her side, the shoulder joint should be able to indent into the bed instead of pushing against the collarbone and scapula. Likewise, the hip bone protrusion should be able to nestle into the mattress instead of being forced out of alignment with the spine.
A good mattress will be soft enough to make these indents possible, but will not sag so much so that the entire spine and joints are curving out of alignment. A pillow top or other forgiving element like memory foam can make a good choice because it molds to the body.
The right mattress will provide adequate support for the lower body. A common complaint among fibro patients is the pain, cramping, burning, and spasms in the legs. When a mattress lacks leg support due to years of use or weak structuring, the leg pains can get worse as the night wears on. A patient can also investigate beds that include around the knees or feet to allow for more positioning options.
The Importance of Good Sleep
Sleep can affect all areas of life. As a fibromyalgia patient contends with the myriad of symptoms which they face, rest could take a back seat. A poor night’s sleep quickly becomes the new standard, and a patient might lose sight of the fact that treatment is possible.
Fibromyalgia patients might find it hard to address sleep problems at first. Many people are used to taking sleep for granted. When sleep becomes an issue, they feel that it shouldn’t be a big problem, and think that they can deal with it on their own without asking for help. The problem is that this becomes harder and harder to do as the sleep deprivation cycle continues.
Fatigue Is Hard to Quantify
Fibromyalgia patients are faced with the extreme challenge of having a condition which is difficult to diagnose or quantify. The problems that go along with the status of fibromyalgia touch in all areas of life. Fatigue is one of these circumstances which is hard to diagnose, quantify, or make others understand.
Fatigue and Mood
Psychological disturbances such as depression and anxiety worsen with fatigue. When a person wakes up feeling tired already, they will not face the day with a positive outlook. Instead, the day will seem daunting, and even little tasks like walking to the bus or picking up a child from daycare might seem impossible.
This negative and concerned outlook can lead to depression and worry about how to manage responsibilities. Seen in this way, sleep patterns and fatigue affect all areas of life.
Living with Fibromyalgia
A fibro patient will likely need to function with an adjusted schedule while they learn about their bodies reactions and requirements. The best aim of treatment is increased quality of life.
Little changes can have a significant impact. Everything is interconnected, and it is important to keep that in mind. If aspects of life are compartmentalized, integrated treatment options could be missed.
Although fibromyalgia is a disease that is often misunderstood, a remarkable amount of research has been done over the last thirty years. The new information about fibromyalgia highlights the fact that it is a neurological condition related to the way a body perceives and processes pain. The symptoms of fibro vary from case to case.
All patients experience chronic pain and fatigue. The treatment options require an integrated approach that aims to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life. Treatment options can come in many shapes and sizes, and change in one area of life could significantly affect other areas.
Finding the best mattress is an essential factor in fibro treatment, as sleep disturbances have a negative impact on cognitive functioning, mood, and lifestyle. The right mattress will have the right amount of softness, be budget friendly, and will work for the patient’s partner.