FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES - That Ever Elusive Sleep


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That Ever Elusive Sleep

Having Fibromyalgia for a few (or more) decades, pain is often the culprit for poor sleep. When you wake up with pain and go to sleep with pain, you soon learn that pain in itself is exhaustive. Many of us do not have trouble going to sleep, it's often staying asleep that is the issue. You finally get to sleep, only to awaken a few hours later.

Then there are the dreaded migraines. For those who experience them; waking up at 4 a.m. with the head banging is just a rude awakening. Then we have Chronic Fatigue and ME, that feeling of exhaustion that never seems to go away, no matter how much sleep you get. We all need a tool-kit of coping skills, especially for something as important as sleep.

Took-Kit of Coping Skills

  • Set a Time and Routine
    Try selecting a set goal time for sleeping, if it is say 11:00 p.m., start your routine an hour earlier. Try taking a warm bath with some Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate.) Adding some lavender oil, or eucalyptus oil can also be very relaxing. Brush your teeth, wash your face, moisturize, just try to keep to the same ritual every night. It is helpful to set a regular sleeping and waking schedule in the beginning. If you plan 11:00 p.m. as your bedtime, start setting your alarm to wake at up 7 or 8 a.m. I actually hate alarm clocks, but once I started the fixed time routine, I found I awake at about the same time every day, without an alarm; but I did use one initially.

  • Pets and Partners
    Yes, those beloved fur babies can interrupt sleep, if you are waking up and unable to go to sleep because of a pet, consider putting them outside of the bedroom to sleep. If you have a spouse that snores, consider making them a doctors appointment to address the issue. Maybe some of the breathing strips that go on the nose can help.

  • Meals and Snacks
    Try to avoid heavy/large meals, sometimes we do better with smaller meals every few hours. Sugar, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided as well. Realize that even Migraine Excedrin has caffeine and can keep you awake, maybe try aspirin or tylenol at bedtime. Having something like a spoon of almond butter can help with sleep, because you are having a protein source that will sustain you for hours.

  • Anxiety, Worry, Stress, and Panic
    First, don't beat yourself up (lol or your partner) if you cannot sleep. Perhaps make relaxing your body the sole purpose, with sleep as the desired secondary outcome. Having racing thoughts, make a worry list, and schedule a time to worry, say 6pm; I know this sounds funny, but it can help.

    Stress, anxiety, and worry can putting your body into a hyper-alert, flight or fight situation, try and let your mind rest; tell your self verbally, or in self-talk that now is the time for your body and mind to rest, that you are not going to deal with whatever "it" is, when you are preparing for sleep. Trust me, whatever "it" is, can wait for the designated scheduled worry time.

    Bolting up from a sound sleep feeling terrorized is not so much fun, if this happens, I want you to get out of bed for a few minutes, go into another room where you can sit down. If that panic feeling is from a previous trauma, tell yourself that it is not happening right now. Then try this grounding exercise, while sitting up with your feet on the floor; say your name, address, city, zip code, date of birth and do this over and over until the sensation stops. Initially it can take a few minutes to work, but if you keep doing this, over time; the frequency and duration will decrease.

  • Sedate Don't Stimulate & Things to Avoid
    Avoid things like exercising in the evening, as it tends to stimulate, not sedate. Avoid video games and suspense type movies television programs, it can take the brain hours to relax from them. Turn off the television, computer, IPad, stereo/radio before the target bedtime. If white noise helps you, consider a small fan, or white noise machine. Make sure you have enough pillows for support and that you have enough room to move around in your bed to get comfy.


Ever find yourself watching your partner or spouse sleep soundly, while you are wide awake, and feeling like you could just shove them off of the bed?, been there lol! If you find you cannot sleep, get out of bed and go to another room, like your living room or family room; try reading for a bit and then return to bed. If you are eating meals in bed, consider sitting at the table, or on a recliner in another room. While our levels of disability may be different, being in the bedroom 24/7 can really impact the sleep cycle.

Spending so much time in the bedroom, one can feel like the walls are closing in, try to go sit outside for at least 10 minutes, several times a day. That will give you a change of environment and help with Vitamin D absorption. While naps can interfere with sleep at nighttime, they are also a necessity for many of us. I have a rule, if I have slept at least 6 hours, I try to avoid naps, so that I can sleep better at night. There are going to be days when the exhaustion takes over, or that Fibromyalgia cycle of awakeness happens; while it can take a bit of work to develop a good sleep cycle, it's not impossible.

Wishing you all the sweetest of dreams.

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