Sleeping Disorders

Sleeping Disorders
It is believed that sufferers with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) miss out on REM (rapid eye movements) and deep levels of sleep, which is vital for the restoration and healing of the body. This may be the cause of why sleeping disorders such as insomnia; difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep, hypersomnia; excessive daytime sleepiness, unrefreshing sleep, nightmares, vivid dreams and night sweats commonly occur.

In my initial stages of CFS, I seemed to spend most of my time in bed. I could sleep from anywhere between 13-15 hours a day and still feel exhausted. Sleep was never satisfying, no matter how much or how little I slept, I always felt the same, unrefreshed and fatigued. My tiredness always remained, like a constant shadow.

Sleep was never restful. It could take up to several hours trying to fall asleep. The nights became so long as I'd lie wide-awake staring at the ceiling. My mind raced, unable to shut down and I'd toss and turn trying to relax. It had got to the stage where I would really dread nighttime. Irregular sleeping patterns had become so familiar, the night sweats and the frequent waking. My body was crying out for sleep, if only I could get a peaceful nights rest.

As the months passed my irregular sleeping patterns remained as my frustration grew. My sleeping patterns just had to change! I visited my specialist who suggested taking a course of antidepressants. At first I refused but after being reassured it wasn't for depression but to help re-regulate my sleeping patterns I agreed to take the course.

I had success at last. No more long nights spent staring at the wall. Instead, a regular sleeping pattern of up to 12 hours. I still needed a few naps during the day and woke several times during the night, but my sleep had dramatically improved and I was sure I was getting a better quality of sleep.

I also found the following useful in initiating and maintaining sleep:

  • Aromatherapy - Drops of lavender oil sprinkled on a pillow and rubbed into your temples alleviates anxiety, stress and tension. It is very calming, soothing and relaxing on the mind.

  • Getting into a regular sleeping pattern. E.g. Waking and going to bed at the same time. This helps to adjust the body's internal clock.

  • Regular exercise, non strenuous. E.g. Light stretching, short walks etc.

  • Yoga, meditation and deep breathing releases stress levels and are extremely relaxing.

  • Drinking warm milk before bed is helpful as milk is high in tryptophan, which is known as a sleep inducer.

  • Sleep occurs when your temperature falls, so if you take a warm bath or shower before bed, as your body cools down, you are more likely to feel sleepy.

  • Magnesium and Melatonin supplements are also helpful in alleviating sleep disorders.

  • Magnesium supplements taken in the evening act as a muscle relaxant.

  • Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, which is produced by the pineal gland (tiny part of the brain) in the darkness but is inhibited in the sunlight. Melatonin is derived from serotonin, which works to regulate the sleep cycle. By taking a supplement of Melatonin, it not only helps to restore sleeping patterns but also is said to improve the quality of sleep.

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, coke, tea, coffee, alcohol, sugary foods and cigarettes, which prevent deep sleep.

  • Strenuous exercise at night should be avoided as this stimulates the mind and body rather than relax it.

  • Worrying at night should also be avoided as this keeps the mind active.

    There are four stages of sleep; (1) Drowsy sleep, (2) Moderate light sleep (3&4) Deep, physically restful sleep. When sleep occurs our brain goes through a period of 90-minute cycles of each stage of sleep, which is followed by REM sleep, or dreaming. It is believed that our body is repaired during deep sleep and the brain is repaired during REM sleep.

    Sleep is a necessity. It allows the body to rest and restore itself. In deep sleep the body releases the growth hormone, which is a powerful stimulator to the immune system. The growth hormone also renews tissues and produces new bone and blood cells.

    It is important to adjust your body's internal clock by getting into the habit of a regular sleeping pattern. Antidepressants have been a great help in re-regulating my sleep cycle as well as improving my quality of sleep.

    We all need deep sleep and REM sleep to occur so that our body can heal, restore and revitalise itself. Good luck and sweet dreaming!

    - S.C.

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