Sleep is hard with chronic pain

It is essential and elusive for many. The tossing and turning, the active brain, the physical exhaustion. 

Why do you feel so wrecked after a bad night's sleep and still not as great after a decent one?

Let me break down why sleep is the first step to have less fatigue and less body pain.

There are 4 stages of sleep. 

The most important stage to know is stage 3 deep sleep. 

To simplify sleep stages, they stair step up and down throughout the night like a randomly programmed stairmaster. There is a variable amount of time in each stage based on the time in your sleep cycle. The goal is to get 4 complete cycles as each is about 2 hours. The first two sleep stages are  simply called 1 and 2.  Stage 3 is deep sleep or slow wave sleep. I will call it deep sleep. 4th is rapid eye movement sleep (REM), also known as dreaming sleep.   

Let’s dig right into why deep sleep determines how your brain and body will function the next day. In deep sleep your brain is slow but your body is busy internally repairing the damage of the day and healing body tissues. Your brain pumps out growth hormone which is essential for muscle repair from daily wear and tear of your body.

The most amazing thing to me is that in deep sleep your brain gets washed out with cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). This stuff is amazing. It literally lights up your brain bright green in studies and as it flows in and out of your brain it carries out the day’s stressors (literally).

But just tell me Rebecca why does this science stuff matter in my hypermobile body? It matters because that bright green CSF bath turned into a quickie outside shower after a Tough Mudder. Research in fibromyalgia (which tons of hypermobile folks have and have high risk of developing) shows that the orderly stair step is gone and that there is little deep sleep at all. 

The research shows that a strong fight or flight response jumps chronic pain folks out of deep sleep. This is shown with alpha wave intrusions that signal adrenaline, fear or pain. This means you get 5-10% of deep sleep minutes compared to people without chronic pain (so not fair). This means 95% less muscle restoration. No wonder many wake up feeling the same or worse than they did the night before! 

But I beg you to not lose hope! There is hope for better sleep with less body pains and less brain fog. The first step is to plan your day the night before, even days in advance if your schedule is about the same day to day. It can be hard to forgive your body for what it cannot do because you know how strong you are, what you could do if you felt better (or what you did when you felt better but then exhausted your reserves….I do it too). 

We get one body, one mind, and now we will fine tune them to better accommodate the pain. You did not cause this. I am with you! Let’s prioritize sleep and see if supplements, meds, mediations and all the other options help us.


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