Most people feel tired after a long day at work, but for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, fatigue is their constant companion. This baffling syndrome affects around four out of every thousand people and causes a multitude of sometimes disabling symptoms such as muscle and joint pains, dizziness, depression, and, of course, fatigue. One factor that contributes to the profound lack of energy that people with chronic fatigue syndrome experience is the poor quality sleep they get at night. Many chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers report problems falling and staying asleep – which makes the fatigue worse the next day. Is there be a way to help chronic fatigue sufferers get some rest?
Sleep and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What Works?
According to a new study published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, exercise may be the best solution for helping people with chronic fatigue syndrome get better quality sleep. Researchers tested this hypothesis by doing an overnight sleep study on seventeen women – on a night they exercised and on a night that they didn’t. The results were impressive enough to get the walking shoes out. CFS sufferers spent less time in the early stages of light sleep and woke up less often after exercising.
Sleep and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Why Aren’t More CFS Sufferers Exercising?
Although other studies have shown that exercise helps with chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, it’s a challenge to get CFS sufferers to muster up the motivation to exercise – with all the muscle aches and fatigue. The key is to start out slowly – doing low impact exercise such as swimming, tai-chi, or pilates first and then gradually work up to walking or aerobic activity. People with chronic fatigue syndrome recover from exercise more slowly than other people which means it’s important to take a day off between workouts to allow for adequate recovery. It may take a week or two or regular exercise to see improvement in sleep patterns.
Sleep Difficulties with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Rule out Other Causes
Before assuming that problems with sleep and chronic fatigue are all due to CFS, make sure the problem isn’t related to another condition such as sleep apnea – which is common in people who are overweight and in those who chronically snore. Take measures to reduce stress which is another common cause of insomnia. Exercise is one of the best treatments for this too, especially mind-body exercises such as yoga or tai-chi. Learn some simple breathing exercises and do them periodically throughout the day. Lastly, be sure to practice good sleep hygiene by making the bedroom comfortable and following a regular sleep schedule.
Sleep and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Bottom Line?
Exercise is more difficult for people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to reduce fatigue and improve sleep. Talk to your doctor about getting started on an exercise program.
These other articles have additional information:
The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. March 2010. page 85.