The Effects Of Chronic Sleep Deprivation And Fibromyalgia – Likely To Contribute To Brain Damage?


"In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think, or suffer darkly, take refuge."   Sidney Gabrielle Collete

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Ah yes, how dreamy (pun intended).

The author of this quote makes sleepless-ness sound almost elegant, but reality quickly crushes that notion into a million wide awake little particles of pain.

Good Night Sleep Tight?

You've finally fallen asleep at 4:30 am, and your alarm rings at 6:15 to get up.

You want to cry, but instead you attempt something between a body roll and a fling to get yourself out of bed. I call it a "bling" and yes- I have commandeered that word for my own purposes...

After that, you drag yourself to the shower trying to psyche yourself up to go on a quick run because you're hoping it will give you some energy.

Especially since you've only had about 2 hours of real sleep and you need to get to work.

I can't tell you how familiar this is to me.

I've been fighting insomnia since third grade. My mother said it was because I was "type A personality", whatever that means.

sleeploss for kids

Right around the same time, I started to get severe migraines.

It became clear pretty quickly that my trigger was sleep deprivation.

When the insomnia was at its worst, I was bound to get a migraine within the next few days.

And when you're a kid and you have a flourishing social life to manage let me tell you, it flat out stinks.

It's always been an uphill battle to get the sleep I need, while still balancing everyday life,…and I am all too familiar with the toll it takes on my mental and physical wellbeing.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms Quiz [A Quiz and Checklist To Help]

Coming soon, hang tight...

Enter Fibromyalgia and the recipe for disaster [Fibromyalgia Symptoms]…

Sleep disorders are just one of the many symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

Sufferers have to try to live with insomnia and it's one of the most, if not THE most destructive.

Jules Bonds

Check out this post, What Sleeping Is Like When You Have Fibromyalgia by The Mighty contributor Jules Bonds. She explains perfectly how people living with Fibromyalgia try to cope with their nightly lack of deep sleep.

I have an immediate family member who has Fibromyalgia and two very close friends. Each of them deal with chronic sleep deprivation as a result of their fibro, and the one thing we can all agree on is, that long term loss of sleep is incredibly destructive.

the pain of sleep loss

The Dangers Of Chronic Sleep Deprivation [How To Diagnose]

It's dangerous in day to day activities, because you know that sleep is not a possibility. You have to get through the day or family and work will fall apart.

It's literally a nightmare... if you could sleep well enough to have one.

Now think about this ...You simply can NOT be safe behind the wheel of a car if you've been getting three or four hours of sleep a night (and in some cases even less).

It's just like someone who's had too much alcohol and gotten behind the wheel of the car.

The drunk might get stopped at a checkpoint, and unfortunately the sleepy person probably won't.

One study found that almost 20% of serious car accidents were from people who were sleep deprived. These accidents had no alcohol involved, only people needing sleep.

Even though you may be performing all of your everyday tasks, you're probably doing it at a sub par level.

Aside from that you just feel incredibly ill.

You can't hold onto a thought for more then a nano-second. You're shaky, and your stomach is nauseous.

Your heart feels like it's trying to leave your chest. Your fibro-body already hurts everywhere, and you know your symptoms will only get worse as the day goes on.

You're definitely not alone, but what can you do to break this pattern before it does some serious damage to your long term brain health?

How Dangerous Is Chronic Sleep Deprivation?

One hypothesis is that disturbances of sleep cause or modify acute and chronic pain. So less sleep equals more pain.

I think anyone who suffers from insomnia, can tell you that everything is more painful trying to navigate the day without any sleep. But what about the long term effects of the sleep loss and sleep disruption on your brain cells?

Less than 6 hours a night of sleep is commonly associated with:

  • Hypertension
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation... all of which affect the brain.

Attention! All you healthy middle aged movers and shakers

...if you are sleeping less then 8 hours a night, you have quadrupled your risk of stroke-QUADRUPLED.

So...just to be clear about this.  If you're eating healthy, exercising, doing well in your job, and not overweight but you're not sleeping enough every night?

You are 4 times more likely to have a stroke then if you sleep for 8+ hours. You're doing everything right, except this one tremendous thing.'re not getting 8 plus hours of sustainable deep sleep.

Can Long Term Sleep Deprivation Cause Irreparable Brain Cell Destruction?

The quick answer to this, is it's looking more and more like it can.

Sleep is a profound regulator of cellular immunity. By that I mean studies in humans and animals have shown that immune function is seriously impaired when chronic, sleep loss happens.

When you lose sleep, the brain cells responsible for regulating the immune response become impaired. They can't do their job correctly because they aren't being rebuilt or renewed through sleep.

This leaves you wide open to diseases and viruses. Not only does it raise your risk of getting sick, studies are showing that even with "make up sleep" your immune response still isn't as strong after you've had long term insomnia.

I think most people assume that no matter how many nights they don't sleep, they can just "make it all up" on the next lazy Sunday.

That may not be case. 

One sleep study actually showed that long term REM sleep restriction caused the blood-brain barrier to malfunction.This is pretty frightnening, because the blood brain barrier (BBB), restricts what can and cannot get through it's protective barricade.

Even though short periods of sleep helped a little, the ability to make it through the blood brain barrier was still possible even after so called "make up sleep".

This means that toxic, blood born molecules may be able to make their way across the BBB and cause neurochemical changes.

This is especially important for Fibromyalgia sufferers, because they may still sleep for 8 hours but tests have shown that their REM sleep is very low. Lack of quality sleep also impairs a person’s ability to focus and learn efficiently.

Sleep is needed to keep a memory so that it can be recalled in the future.

Getting a good nights sleep is a lot harder then it sounds, but absolutely necessary for your brains health.

Why prescription and over the counter sleeping pills are more of a risk then a solution...

"The morning after"

I can tell you about my own experience with over the counter and prescribed sleeping pills.

In 3rd grade, my sudden insomnia was so severe that my parents were up at night right along with me. They were exhausted and dragged me to the doctor to beg for help.

I was prescribed sleeping 3rd grade.... and I remember my mother arguing with the doctor but finally agreeing to give it a try.The first night I took them I was still awake but woozy and terrified of what was going on in my body.

I remember feeling like I couldn't breathe well. I woke my poor parents up again and my mother immediately threw them away.

Since then I have tried newer "gentler" recommendations from doctors but every single one has left me feeling like I've taken a horse tranquilizer, completely unable to function the next day.

It's absolutely ridiculous to me that the so called cure, is equal to-or worse then the problem.  Is it worth it?

In my case, It's never been worth it.

I've heard the exact same thing from my Fibromyalgia friends.

I'd get phone calls and texts about how the most recent drug has caused nothing but total exhaustion the next day, and it's not even real drowsiness. I think the best way to describe it is a sleeping pill stupor, and who needs that with all of the other challenges that fibro sufferers face.

Natural Remedies And Treatment of Fibromyalgia & Sleep Deprivation

All of us (me and my fibro gals) have opted for more natural ways to take on the sleep problems. We chose to work with our body, not against it.

Speaking of working with your body, Donna over at Fed Up With Fatigue is an expert at taking on all things Fibro.

She explores everything from diets that may be beneficial, to alternative remedies for pain. She also has her finger on the latest research surrounding Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, and shares all of her latest finds. I think, you'll find yourself empowered to make your own choices.

I became a huge advocate of a class of natural drug alternatives called nootropics, that have been studied for many years and found to be beneficial for many things, including sleeplessness and protection of the brain among others.

For me personally, these have had an extremely positive impact on my sleep, focus, and energy for years now and I will never go back to over the counter or prescription sleep medication.

The cycle that they create is devastating.

One of the best nootropic formulas for sleep duration, relaxation and neural protection that you can find is MindBoost Night.

Look at just a few of the benefits you may expect when taking these natural ingredients nightly.

    Ashwagandha (also known as Brahmi) has also been shown to “safely and effectively improve your resistance towards stress and therefore improve your quality of life.” It has been shown to decrease the stress chemical cortisol by up to 27% in 60 days.
    One study out of Amsterdam showed that Chamomile Extract had a significantly greater reduction of anxiety versus the placebo.
    Within 30 minutes of taking L-Theanine participants in one study noticed dramatic increases in relaxation.
    Skullcap helps prevent inflammatory responses in brain cells which protects the neurons in your brain from daily damage.
    GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) which works to lessen your nerve activity which leads to calm, relaxed, deep sleep. Natural sedatives such as Valerian(another ingredient in MindBoost Night) also work to increase GABA.
    Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) has effectively been used for centuries in reducing stress and improving calmness. It can also help with anxiety-related insomnia.

That's just a few of the goodies in MindBoost Night to help build and repair your brain as well as promote quality, sleep.

MindBoost Night

MindBoost Night - Get The Best Night Sleep Possible


Exercise is also critically important

If you have Fibromyalgia, you know that you must move your body. I realize that sometimes it seems like asking the impossible but it helps in the long run.

I've always been a runner and that helps regulate my sleep, but I also love relaxation yoga before bed.There are some great YouTube videos that you can use for this.

Just search for "relaxing yoga, calming yoga, or yoga for sleep".

Yoga on the beach

Drink something soothing and warm before hitting the sheets.

This helps aid digestion and quickly relaxes you.

One of my favorites is "Sleepy Milk" (our daughters name for it) it's actually turmeric milk. Turmeric contains a ton of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. This is an especially good thing for the somatic pain of Fibromyalgia.

It's a regular in our house.

You can make this with any type of milk (animal or seed and nut)-although I'm not sure I'd go with goats milk....

Here's our version. You can play around with it to suit your taste.

2 cups of milk (cow, seed or nut) we like almond, cashew and coconut

1 tablespoon raw honey or real maple syrup (if you're concerned about any sweetness before bed, you can leave it out).

½ tsp. ground cardamom (or 1 pod)

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil (still smells like the sun)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric (or if you've gotten a hold of the root, about ½ inch)

¼-½ tsp. garam masala•- You can find this at Indian markets, and some specialty stores. It's an amazing spice-try to find it. There are also recipes online if you want to try to make it. It varies with the part of the world using it.

1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ginger (you can also use fresh grated -1 tsp) and squeeze the ginger juice directly into the milk

½ tsp. pure vanilla

Pinch of sea salt (this brings all the flavors out)

Bring everything to a simmer on medium low, and continue simmering, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until you begin to see the color deepen and the smell intensify.

Strain if needed, pour into fat mugs and enjoy warm.

By this time you've hopefully done a short relaxation yoga video, taken your MindBoost Night, and carried your steaming mug of spicy yellow goodness into your bedroom.

Now what?

Go.... to.... bed... early.

Don't wait until later.

Put on some soft jazz (or whatever flips your fancy), get your book out that you keep telling yourself you want to read... and read for 15-20 minutes....TURN...OUT...THE...LIGHTS- I mean it. Make it black. 

Sweet dreams jelly beans....

Please share with someone who deserves a good nights sleep, and let us know what routines work for you in the comments below pretty please 🙂 

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Hi, my name is Julia Lundstrom and I'm an educator in the fields of neuroscience and brain health. I'd like to invite you to attend a very special webinar event.

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