You know what they say about getting a good night's sleep so you can face a new day refreshed and bursting with energy? Here's a fact check. The concept of 'restorative' sleep is foreign to people with fibromyalgia – a chronic pain condition characterised by widespread pain, stiffness, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, depression, anxiety and more. So, with no sleep and a mega bundle of health issues, you can imagine the kind of effort people with fibromyalgia put in to get through a day!
Sleep issues are a common complaint in fibromyalgia, with the two sharing a 'close' bond. Simply put, like pain prevents people from slipping into a deep sleep and getting adequate rest, lack of sleep can increase widespread pain and tenderness caused by fibromyalgia. This, in turn, lowers the pain threshold, thus creating a vicious circle.
Another thing that keeps fibromyalgia people awake is the Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) - a sudden and uncontrollable urge to move legs due to pain or uncomfortable sensations, mainly in the evening or at night. For people with fibromyalgia, any movement related to RLS is followed by debilitating pain that further disrupts sleep.
Popping a pill or two isn't an option in fibromyalgia because
- There is no cure for the illness
- Medications have side effects that cause additional discomfort
Individuals who've been handling the chronic disorder for a long time, and health experts, say the best way to manage the condition is to adopt the healthy diet + exercise + sleep well mantra. And their solution to sleeping well is a 'weighted blanket'!
So what's a weighted blanket…
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic blanket weighing between 2 kg and 13 kg. The extra weight from the blanket applies deep but gentle pressure on the body's sensory input receivers forcing the body to relax. The technique, called grounding, relaxes a restless body.
And how does sleeping with a weighted blanket help?
- Serotonin surge - Research indicates people with fibromyalgia have low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a happy hormone that impacts various functions of the body, including sleeping, eating, digestion and mood stabilising. The pressure from the weighted blanket 'grounds' and relaxes the user, kickstarting a surge in serotonin production that'll calm the body. Once your body relaxes, it releases melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. A plus point is that serotonin plays a crucial role in pain management; it's often found in medications for migraines and chronic pains.
- Ease anxiety + depression- Fibromyalgia is known to increase anxiety and depression; the gentle pressure of the weighted blanket provides a feeling similar to that of a hug, massage or swaddling. This enables a sense of calm and triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, the happy hormones that are mood boosters that make you feel content.
- Helps RLS -One of the reasons why RLS occurs at night is because you aren't distracted by other things. The unpleasant sensations of RLS make you want to shuffle, move around in bed, get up to pace or stretch, all of which hamper sleep. The pressure of a weighted blanket calms the overwhelmed nervous system and draws your attention from RLS sensations.
- Reduces pain + fatigue - Pain causes fatigue and vice versa. A weighted blanket helps reduce pain through pressure, thus reducing fatigue. Our body uses a lot of energy to deal with pain, which means, when the pain is under control, you can conserve energy. With sleep, the fatigue level is manageable.
- Manage temperature tolerance -Many people with fibro have to deal with temperature sensitivity - some are sensitive to cold, while others may be sensitive to heat. A regular weighted blanket is an excellent way to stay warm and regulate body temperature. And for those who feel too hot, look out for cooling weighted blankets.
OUR FOUNDER’S TIPS TOWARDS A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP
I like to start winding down after 7 PM, which includes no strenuous work outs (only walk outdoors) as that increases my endorphins that interferes with my calming down phase! I also avoid watching television and using the phone at night for work – basically cut out the blue screen. I always take a warm shower or bath before dinner time and slather on Jasmine After Bath + Hair Oil all over my body, especially the neck and décolletage. The scent of jasmine flowers is known to help calm the mind and reduce anxiety levels. A few times of the week, I make a cup of Calming Brew an hour before bed and light either CONFIDENCE or ARDOUR soy candle. I use the eye mask especially when I’m traveling. The most essential though is using a weighted blanket, as it helps keep my body calm and avoid sudden movements that wake me up. The heaviness has done wonders in ensuring a deeper sleep through the night. I have a strict rule of no laptops on the bed at night time. I get into bed around 8.30 PM and read fiction books on my kindle with the lights out until I eventually fall asleep by 9.30 PM. This routine has really worked for me well the past few years ensuring a full night’s sleep.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in the bones and muscles. The medical community finds the condition difficult to diagnose due to its similarity with other chronic pain illnesses like osteoarthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. The difference between these conditions and fibromyalgia is in the areas of pain – in the former, you are racked with pain in specific areas, but in fibromyalgia, the pain is widespread. That's why diagnosis is made by the process of elimination. Here's an interesting fact: records show over 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women.
DISCLAIMER: All opinions and suggestions shared are from our Founder’s detailed research and experiences in managing symptoms in her own battle with fibromyalgia
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Weighted blanket that our founder uses : Weighted blanket