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 Fibromyalgia: Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia (Part 3) - The Brain/Sleep Connection 

Growth hormone, 80% of which is produced during delta stage sleep, has a direct effect on repair and regeneration of muscles. Its deficiency may account for many of the muscular symptoms of FMS. Growth hormone production can be encouraged by specific dietary strategies such as fasting as well as during deep/relaxation meditation.

How Muscles are Affected
Dr.H.Moldofsky demonstrated how sleep disturbance can upset muscular status when six volunteers had their stage four sleep disrupted for three nights in a row.4

All developed fatigue, widespread aching muscles and specific tenderness on palpation of the sites used to diagnose fibromyalgia. When the same sleep disruption pattern was used on volunteer long distance runners there was no fatigue and no pain. As we will see, carefully constructed ‘training’ can be an effective method in recovery from fibromyalgia and in some cases of CFS.

Why do people who suffer ‘ordinary’ insomnia not develop fibromyalgia? Studies have show that ‘normal’ insomnia does not involve the same degree of disturbance of delta stage sleep seen in FMS. When normal sleep is disturbed there is often a greater degree of ‘arousal’ or increased neurological excitability than is evident in FMS patients. This is a ‘different’ form of sleep disturbance and does not influence growth hormone production.

‘Brain fog’
Where stage four (delta) sleep is artificially disturbed in volunteers a host of symptoms appear, including cognitive, memory and concentration difficulties. As sleep disturbance continues volunteers become withdrawn and complain of increased muscular and joint tenderness and stiffness. These physical and mental symptoms disappear with a restoration of delta stage sleep for just two nights.

There is also immune depression during periods of sleep disturbance which may partly account for continuous viral problems which many people with CFS(ME)/FMS experience.

Other Sleep Anomalies
Sleep apnoea occurs in around 25% of FMS/CFS(ME) patients.

Myoclonus (‘restless leg syndrome’) affects about 16% of FMS/CFS(ME) patients

Bruxism affects between 10 and 15% of FMS/CFS(ME) patients

A return to a better sleep pattern is clearly important in helping people with fibromyalgia, however, the same treatment is not required for all forms of sleep abnormality!

Circulatory Disturbances in the Brain5,6
Researchers have uncovered changes in brain circulation as well as the biochemistry of the brain in relation to chronic fatigue sufferers (ME) and FMS patients (same picture in both groups).

  • Substance P a chemical compound which increases the sensitivity of nerves to pain has been found in raised levels in the cerebro-spinal fluid of people with FMS

  • Serotonin has been found to be deficient in people with CFS(ME) and FMS, which has a profound influence on sleep patterns and alterations in pain sensitivity.

  • CFS(ME) patients scanned using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) indicate that areas of their brains are under active in uptake of glucose, the brain’s energy supply f. These early findings could explain the ‘foggy’ brain syndrome, poor concentration, in CFS(ME) and FMS.

  • The rate of blood flow in the brain has been tested in both normal individuals and CFS(ME) patients using SPECT scanning with results indicating that the patients had poorer circulation to those parts of the brain controlling both memory and the movement of body parts including the muscles.
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 About The Author
Leon Chaitow ND, DO, MROA practicing naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, with over forty years clinical experience, Chaitow is Editor-in-Chief, of the ...more
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