Sleep and Sleeping with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
What is sleep and why do we need it?
Sleep is the term used to describe the bodies rest cycle. It is a naturally recurring state where our senses and motor activity are almost completely put on pause. During sleep we are completely or partially unconscious and all of the muscles we can control, the voluntary ones, are switched off.
Sleep is a pretty mysterious thing even to the greatest doctors and scientists in the world. William Dement, the founder of Stanford University’s Sleep Research Center, famously stated that “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.” Why we actually need it is often debated but it is a fact that we can’t live without it, and that if we don’t get enough it can make us very unwell!
While scientists are unsure of why we need it, it is perfectly clear what actually happens when we sleep. Sleep helps the body to grow and conserve energy. While we sleep the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems rejuvenate and grow. Sleep is also directly linked with memory and our ability to learn and remember things we have been taught or experienced.
How much sleep do we need?
How much sleep we need really depends on things such as age, lifestyle, routine and our general state of health. There is no exact magical amount of sleep that each person needs to be healthy and happy but scientists estimate that the following are reasonably good guides of how much sleep each age group needs:
Amount of sleep needed
Newborn (0 – 2 months)
12 – 18 hours
Infant (3 – 11 months)
14 – 15 hours
Toddler (1 – 3 years)
12 – 14 hours
Child (3 – 5 years)
11 – 13 hours
School-age Children (5 – 10 years)
10 – 11 hours
Teenager (10 – 17 years)
8.5 to 9.25 hours
7 to 9 hours
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Not getting enough sleep can seriously negatively affect a person’s life in many ways. There are the obvious consequences such as fatigue, feeling sleepy during the day, clumsiness and a shorter attention span. But these are far from being the only problems that come from not getting enough sleep, other well recognized and recorded consequences of a lack of sleep include:
Weight loss or gain
Full body, and specifically hand tremors
Sensitivity to cold
A general feeling of anxiety and unease
Nystagmus (rapid involuntary eye movements)
Temper tantrums (in children)
Black under eye circles
And this is far from being the end of the line, long term sleep deprivation leads to an increased risk of developing serious health problems such as:
Increased blood pressure
Increased stress hormone levels
Increased risk of diabetes
Increased risk of fibromyalgia
M.E/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sleep
A major factor, which leads to the extreme lack of energy people who suffer from M.E/CFS experience, is a lack of good quality sleep. When I was suffering with chronic fatigue I developed insomnia. Insomnia is basically the term used to describe difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. The problem was that while I was the most tired I had ever been, I still had extreme trouble falling asleep. I couldn’t get what my body needed most!
Many things cause insomnia such as psychological stress, a poor sleep environment, an inconsistent sleep schedule or over stimulation physically or mentally right before bedtime. Often the suggested remedy for insomnia is daily exercise. But when I was suffering with chronic fatigue Syndrome, exercise wasn’t something I could simply hop up and do! Sometimes to start with staying awake throughout the day is enough, increasing to daily activities around the house, to then building into formal safe exercise like stretching, low intensity body weight movement and gentle walks etc. BE careful though – DO NOT OVERDO IT.
When you suffer from chronic fatigue getting enough sleep is going to be one of the most foundational stepping-stones to building up your energy levels. Clearly people really need sleep to survive and thrive! Managing your chronic fatigue is going to involve looking at your sleeping patterns and making sure you are able to get enough sleep. In order to fix your sleeping patterns it is really important to understand why you are either unable to sleep or sleeping too much, as finding the balance will help you with your overall health.
5 ways you can improve your sleep
Getting up at a regular time – be realistic and don’t hit that snooze button. The first two weeks is the hardest
No Midday nap – reduce napping as much as possible as this tricks the body into thinking it doesn’t need to sleep at night. You will lay there counting sheep and not falling asleep.
Reduce caffeine and sugar by the afternoon. Eating a clean slow release diet is better than fast food any day of the week. Your body will thank you.
Movement – Sometimes we exercise our brains more than our bodies. We were born on this physical earth to be physical – movement – can be as simple as daily tasks, gentle stretching, a walk or more depending on or health and fitness levels. Do what you can manage and not over do it 🙂
Relax and let go of stress – You are probably sitting here thinking yeah that’s me. I cant stop thinking at night. Write down whatever is stressing you out, your thoughts. Write down a solution to it as best as you can deal with it. And let it be for the night. You will deal with it when you are more awake and have more energy tomorrow. Put on some relaxing music and take a few deep breathes.