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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Sleep Issues with Fibromyalgia

Most people with fibromyalgia report having non-restorative sleep (the kind that leaves you waking up feeling like you haven’t rested) or trouble falling asleep. I know these have both been a problem for me since having fibromyalgia, along with having trouble staying asleep.

Typically Stage IV (deep) sleep is characterized by having only slow delta waves, but people with fibromyalgia also have quick alpha wave spikes during deep sleep. This alpha wave intrusion is also called alpha-delta sleep. Stage IV sleep is interrupted by these alpha waves, thus we get less deep sleep. In Breaking Thru the Fibro Fog Dr. Kevin White says, “Moldofsky and his research partners discovered that the greater the number of alpha waves a person has in stage IV, the more pain and stiffness they have.”

When I had my sleep study, they found the same pattern of alpha wave intrusion. I was told that my spikes were most likely due to fibromyalgia pain. Both my Rheumatologist and the sleep study people told me that taking Gabapentin/Neurontin was the best thing that I could do to help my sleep and that it should help my fibromyalgia, overall. They sleep study also found that it took me longer than average baselines to get any deep sleep and overall, I got less of it.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a common overlapping condition to fibromyalgia that can also cause disruptions in falling or staying sleep. More specifically RLS is a neurological condition that is characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. A person may be more susceptible to having RLS if other family members have it, they have an iron deficiency or if they have certain other medical conditions. RLS is often treated with various medications, but these things may also provide relief: hot baths, leg massage, heat, ice packs, aspirin, regular exercise and avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. For more information check out the RLS Foundation.

Anybody having sleep issues should also rule out sleep apnea as a cause of disturbance in their sleep. It isn’t always accompanied by loud snoring, as many people think it is. There are many options to treat sleep apnea now-a-days, besides just using a cPAP machine.

Has taking Gabapentin/Neurontin improved your sleep?

You may also be interested in reading:
Tips for Sleeping Well
Tips & Tools for Sleeping Well – Part I
Tips & Tools for Sleeping Well – Part II

person sleeping

zzz zz z zz zzz*

*Image Credit: from by danielfoster437


Comment from karen
Time June 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

Interesting about the alpha/delta thing. I find myself waking often, I wonder if I might have this issue also. I go for my sleep study on July 14th, so I’ll probably do a post on my experience as well! I’ll keep you posted, and thanks for the information as always!
karen recently posted: FIBRO FRIDAY – Related Conditions Part 2- Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Felicia Fibro Reply:

I ended up waking up ~30 times during the ~6 hours of recording! I’m excited to hear how yours goes, Karen!


Comment from Tami Stackelhouse
Time June 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm

In her new book “Figuring Out Fibromyalgia,” Dr. Ginevra Liptan does an awesome job explaining why fibromyalgia is a stress response issue – and why it results in these alpha brainwave intrusions. I HIGHLY recommend her book for anyone who has fibro.

What I haven’t found out yet – and plan to ask her! – is the connection with cortisol and the alpha brainwaves. I know she talks in her book about the fact that we have the alpha brainwave intrusions because we’re stuck in the “fight-or-flight” response. This tends to make me think that we’ve got a cortisol issue. I know this was certainly true for me. My cortisol actually went UP in the evening, instead of going down.

If you can get your cortisol issues under control, would that fix the alpha brainwave intrusion issue? Or is that issue a separate one?

I interest is that the cortisol issue can be fixed naturally instead of being prescribed more medications with more side effects. Since I’ve been able to come off of nine medications so far, I’m not real keen on adding some back in! Especially if there’s a way to fix it naturally.

Is this covered in the book that you mentioned?
Tami Stackelhouse recently posted: Honoring Your Body- Getting to Know YOU


Felicia Fibro Reply:

There are many chemical abnormalities that could be playing a role in our sleep. In Dr. White’s book (mentioned above) he writes that there are, “deficiencies in nocturnal levels or serotonin, cortisol, growth hormone, somatomedin-C and melatonin.” I almost included this information in my post, so I’m glad you asked! Regarding cortisol, Dr. White writes that there are “reduced morning levels of cortisol that correlate with the degree of morning symptoms.”

I haven’t yet read anything, anywhere with more detailed information about alpha wave intrusions. I’m with you on trying to be healthy without meds, if at all possible.


Comment from mel
Time June 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I’ve been on neurontin for awhile. I’m only taking 300 mg but I haven’t noticed a strong change in my sleep. I think it changed my pain levels. My sleep is obviously affected by pain and stress levels. So I’m working on relaxation exercises and that seems to be helping.


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Mel – thanks for sharing that relaxation exercises seem to be helping you out.


Comment from Heather
Time June 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I have been on neurotin for a month now only at night and it has helped in conjunction with my cpap to get some sleep. Which in turn has helped some of the pain and brain fog. It is not all gone mind you, but we are headed in the right direction at my appointment yesterday we decided to keep the 800mg dose at night and do some smaller doses during the day to help with the pain and added cymbalta to the mix. Hope it is going to work.
Heather recently posted: Tomorrow


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Heather – that is wonderful that the neurontin plus your cPAP have helped you so much! I think that is fairly common for doctors to keep the bulk of the neurontin at night, but see if your body can handle smaller doses during the day. Good luck!


Comment from Selena
Time June 24, 2011 at 6:58 am

I went for a sleep study too & only slept 2 hours! I had to go back a second time which is when they had me use the CPAP machine. Turns out I had sleep apnea, and like you mentioned, I was not a loud snorer. I wasn’t able to tolerate neurontin, but a neurologist put me on a very low does of seroquel which is helping me get more deep sleep. Now I just wish I could fall asleep faster and at the right time of day!
Selena recently posted: Mission 2011: A Simple Routine


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Thanks for sharing your experience with Neruontin, Selena. I’m glad to hear that Seroquel helps you get more deep sleep. You probably started sleeping better are using the cPAP machine too, right?


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