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When Fibromyalgia Affects Your Sleep

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One major symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic fatigue. You’re often in a daze, drifting through the fibro fog, feeling utterly exhausted. When someone with fibromyalgia says they’re tired, it’s not like when you stay up a bit late to watch a movie. It’s the fatigue that comes with having the flu, fatigue that affects your whole body, making you sluggish and not quite there. So when you also have trouble sleeping, or your sleep isn’t refreshing, you can feel a hundred times worse.

I’ve been taking amitriptyline for over 18 months now, in an attempt to manage my fibromyalgia symptoms. Despite some problems adjusting to the side effects in the beginning, I’ve definitely felt an improvement since taking it. But recently, the dose just hasn’t been working as effectively. I’ve felt more pain, and I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping.

Before starting on amitriptyline, I always had trouble sleeping – vivid dreams, sometimes night terrors, insomnia, waking up every hour – and I’m not glad to see those troubles return. Over the past month or so, I’ve started to experience extremely vivid dreams again, and really struggling to get to sleep.

A very small dose of amitriptyline is sometimes given to help people sleep. After the first few months of getting used to the dose, I began to have very deep sleep. I’ve always been a light sleeper, but when using amitriptyline, I would sleep the sleep of the dead.

However, I’ve been using a Fitbit to track my sleep for the past couple of months. It’s interesting to see my sleep patterns, although it can be a little frustrating too! I regularly see a pattern of being in very deep sleep, then wrenching awake, then falling straight back into deep sleep. This disturbed sleep pattern means I rarely feel refreshed in the mornings.

So how do you cope with disturbed sleep? Obviously, going back to my GP is the first step. But until my appointment rolls around, I have to do something. A lack of sleep can affect all aspects of your life – I’ve been less productive at work, less interested in social activities, more irritable – and I’ve just been feeling rather down and negative. I can’t stand lying awake, watching the clock slowly tick round.

I started meditating a few months ago, and decided to use it to help me sleep. On the Headspace app, there is actually a sleep pack, but I’ve used various sessions – stress, restlessness, anxiety – to help me relax and fall asleep more naturally. While it doesn’t always stop me from waking up during the night, it does help me actually get to sleep, which is half the battle these days. I’m also laying off caffeine after 8 p.m., opting for decaf teabags in the evenings.

That, and an increased dose of amitriptyline (agreed with my GP, of course), are helping me to manage this awful period. I don’t know what the next step is, if I’ll have to change medications, but for now, it’s the best I can do. After all, living with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia requires a lot of compromising, and settling for the best of a bad situation.

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Photo via PHDG on Getty Images

Originally published: January 8, 2018
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