Over 50% of Americans have trouble falling or staying asleep, and that number is even higher for those of us living with Fibromyalgia or CFS.
There are a lot of little tricks people suggest for help with falling asleep. I’ve tried quite a few of them with typically little success. Melatonin helps me fall asleep but it leaves me extremely vivid (and often stressful dreams). CBD oil works much better for helping me get regular quality sleep. But, even with that sometimes my mind races and falling asleep can be an issue. Guided meditation, or mindfulness therapy, is often just the trick I need to quiet to mind so that I can relax and fall asleep.
Not only does regular mindfulness therapy help me fall asleep easier, it can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are also common with Fibromyalgia. When I find that my brain just won’t stop repeating anxious thoughts the best thing I can do listen to a guided meditation recording focused on releasing anxiety.
In 2017, I took a 9 week mindfulness-based stress reduction course and found the effects lasted far beyond the end of the course (or even beyond when I stopped meditating regularly). Lately, I’ve been feeling the effects of not meditating. I don’t stay focused as well, I feel more anxious, more worried, my thoughts flitter from one thing to the next. So, I’ve returned to that regular meditation practice with the goal of calming my mind once again.
The point of mindfulness therapy is learning to accept moment by moment how you are feeling (both physically and mentally) without judging those feelings. Basically, you feel it and you let it go.
Studies have shown that it can be very helpful with sleep issues at a variety of levels. But a 2013 study examined whether mindfulness based therapies (MBT) can be helpful in somatasized disorders (including Fibromyalgia, CFS, & IBS). Somatasized disorders are those that involve chronic treatment resistant, medically unexplainable symptoms.
Researchers Lakhan and Schofield performed a meta-analysis of past studies on mindfulness therapy for Fibromyalgia, CFS, and IBS. Their meta-analysis showed conflicting results for MBT on Fibromyalgia. However, the conflicting results may well have been the result of the different ways that the earlier studies were completed (some did not include true control groups which may have resulted in control groups receiving a therapy that was as good as MBT). The results for CFS were better with MBT consistently showing improvement to anxiety, fatigue, depression, and quality of life. MBT also showed sustained improvement for those with IBS.
The key to remember is that MBT is based on acceptance. It’s not so much that the symptoms change but that you do, you learn to accept them, and you learn how to remove your focus from them, thus decreasing the anxiety and depression (and potentially the sleep issues and fatigue) that come as a result.
Overall, this analysis showed that MBT significantly improved symptom severity, pain levels, quality of life, anxiety, and depression in those suffering from somatasized disorders.
The symptoms that improved varied depending on the disorder. For those with Fibromyalgia the primary improvement was in symptom severity. Those with IBS saw improvement in symptom severity, pain, and quality of life. Whereas, those with CFS saw improvements in symptom severity, depression, and anxiety. Symptom severity may be a bit subjective unless the study clearly identified which symptoms were improving or whether the reference was to symptoms overall.
Overall, it seems that mindfulness based therapies may be beneficial to those of us living with Fibromyalgia, CFS, or IBS (or a combination of the three) as well as other somatasized disorders that are not well explained. Personally, I think a large part of why we feel worse than some more explained disorders and diseases is the lack of understanding of our illness, which leads to a lack of acceptance. MBT may help with the lack of acceptance and help lower symptoms overall.