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Do you toss and turn at night because of fibromyalgia pain or discomfort?

"People with fibromyalgia tend to have very disturbed sleep," says Doris Cope, MD, director of Pain Management at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Even if they sleep 10 hours a night, they still feel fatigued, don't feel rested."

Research shows that with fibromyalgia, there is an automatic arousal in the brain during sleep. Frequent disruptions prevent the important restorative processes from occurring. Growth hormone is mostly produced during sleep. Without restorative sleep and the surge of growth hormone, muscles may not heal and neurotransmitters (like the mood chemical serotonin) are not replenished. The lack of a good night’s sleep makes people with fibromyalgia wake up feeling tired and fatigued.

The result: The body can't recuperate from the day's stresses -- all of which overwhelms the system, creating a great sensitivity to pain. Widespread pain, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and memory difficulties are all symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Insomnia takes many forms -- trouble falling asleep, waking up often during the night, having trouble going back to sleep, and waking up too early in the morning. Smoothing out those sleep problems -- and helping people get the deep sleep their bodies need -- helps fibromyalgia pain improve significantly, research shows.

Medications can help enhance sleep and relieve pain. But doctors also advocate lifestyle changes to help sleep come naturally.

Tips to Get Better Sleep With Fibromyalgia

Creating a comfort zone at home is key to better sleep, whether you have fibromyalgia or not. It's all about easing into bedtime feeling relaxed -- and staying relaxed so you sleep through the night.

These 10 tips can help people sleep better: 

  • Enjoy a soothing (warm) bath in the evening.
  • Brush your body with a loofah or long-handled brush in the bath.
  • Ease painful tender points with a self-massage device (like a tennis ball).
  • Do yoga and stretching exercises to relax.
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Meditate to tame intrusive thoughts and tension.
  • Sleep in a darkened room. Try an eye mask if necessary.
  • Keep the room as quiet as possible (or use a white-noise machine).
  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable.
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine, including teas, colas, and chocolate.

Therapies to Treat Insomnia When You Have Fibromyalgia

If you're still having sleep problems, several therapies can help, including biofeedback, relaxation training, stress reduction, and cognitive therapy. A psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders can discuss these therapies with you.

The therapies help people handle stress better, which helps control fibromyalgia episodes, Cope says. "Fibromyalgia comes and goes," she tells WebMD. "When you're stressed out, that's when it's worse." That's when you're most likely to have insomnia, too.

Medications can also help ease fibromyalgia pain at night, or directly treat insomnia. Medications to ease pain and improve sleep in those with fibromyalgia symptoms include certain types of antidepressants, anticonvulsants, prescription pain relievers, and sleep aids.

No one therapy will control fibromyalgia pain 100%, Cope adds.

"Medications help some. Exercise helps some. Stress reduction helps some. Cognitive behavior therapy helps some... If you can get restful sleep, you're going to function better when you're awake."

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