How I Combat Fibromyalgia Fatigue

By: Melissa Swanson

No, I didn’t prick my finger on a spinning wheel like Sleeping Beauty, nor like Rip Van Winkle did I sleep for 20 years. However, a few weeks ago, I did sleep 32 out of 36 hours. I missed Wednesday and Thursday, most of Saturday and half of Sunday because I was sleeping. Had I allowed my eyes to close even once more, I know I would have been out again.

I was exhausted – physically and emotionally.

Fibromyalgia fatigue is unlike normal fatigue. It isn’t the tired you feel when you are young and party the night away. It isn’t the exhaustion you feel when you are a parent of a young child who refuses to sleep.

The persistent and chronic exhaustion that comes with fibromyalgia can be debilitating.

I am fortunate that with the right supplements, medications and integrative therapies, I manage my fibromyalgia. I still have pain, but most days it is low. However, the overwhelming tiredness will not go away. I hit a wall each day about 2:30 p.m., and in order for me to get through the day and stay awake until 9 p.m., I must have my after-work nap. Without it, I simply cannot function.

Sleep Study

One of the first things I ask fibromites is if they have had a sleep study. It is important to know if other issues, such as sleep apnea, are affecting our quality of sleep. I had a sleep study done, which discovered I have sleep maintenance insomnia. I quickly fall asleep but I never reach deep restorative sleep because I wake up in the middle of the night and then I’m not able to go back to sleep. Now I take a medication that helps me sleep through the night, but unfortunately, I still do not feel rested when I awake in the morning.

Every day, it is a struggle to prepare myself both mentally and physically to get out of bed in the morning and then to get ready for bed in the evening. I began giving in to the fatigue. I would go straight home every day after work and take a nap. Family health scares and stressors kept me from sticking to my “normal” bed routine. In November, I stopped taking my supplements due to financial reasons.

So, how does fatigue affect my daily life?

Makes it difficult to concentrate, creates “fibro fog”
Decreases my motivation and my desire to do anything
To-do lists take much longer to accomplish
Feel winded and exhausted after a short amount of activity
Creates a feeling of weakness or heaviness
How can I manage my fatigue?

Get up at the same time each day
Pace myself during activities
Try to balance between activity and rest periods
Avoid over-exertion, which can increase symptoms and bring on a flare
Limit daytime napping
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco
Supplements
Prescription sleep medications
Check for medication side effects: drugs taken for other issues may affect sleep or create sleep-related problems
Low-impact activities
Walking
Yoga
Swimming
Complementary and alternative therapies
Acupuncture
Massage
Sleep Hygiene
Prepare for sleep by gradually reducing my activity level in the several hours before bedtime
Use relaxation tapes/yoga/meditation
Create a good sleep environment and routine
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Invest in a good mattress
Minimize light and noise
Keep the room at a cool temperature
Fibromyalgia fatigue can lead to social isolation and depression. I began noticing the signs in myself. I started canceling plans I had made with friends. I slept more. I was so sad watching my friends go to concerts, art fairs and other activities when I couldn’t even get myself to sit outside on a nice day. I was just too tired.

My long sleep was my body telling me it was time to make a change!

Two weeks ago I started taking several vitamins and supplements. I noticed a slight difference right away. I started getting up during commercials and doing small chores around the house to increase my activity. I made myself work outside in the flowers each evening after my nap.

We all do it. It is easier to give in to the fatigue than it is to fight it. Baby steps. I am still tired, but it isn’t as bad as it was two weeks ago and today I am outside enjoying my flowers in the sunshine – and getting some good old fashioned vitamin D!

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