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The Torture of Sleep Deprivation in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Prisoners of War

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Updated June 13, 2014

As I sit here awake at far-too-early o'clock, after getting to sleep at far-too-late o'clock, I can't help but fixate on sleep. I suppose it's more accurate to say "sleep deprivation" than "sleep," however.

When you have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep deprivation is a part of life. Paradoxically, we're sleep deprived no matter how much time we actually spend asleep. More on this in a minute.

We're so accustomed to being exhausted that it seems normal much of the time - until we have a particularly bad bout of it like I'm having this morning. Here's something to put it in perspective for you: sleep deprivation is a torture device. It's used to break prisoners of war and to coerce confessions from criminal suspects. It can make a tough man break down and cry. And do you know why? Because it gives them a taste of what we live with.

In studies, researchers have demonstrated that sleep deprivation can cause fibromyalgia symptoms in a healthy person. The brain fog, the heightened sensitivity to pain, etc. - they can all be induced by preventing quality sleep.

Quality sleep is the key here, as I meander back to my earlier point. Our sleep - be it scant or plentiful - is not of sufficient quality to leave us refreshed or help our bodies recover from the previous day's exertions. This is the case with us: whether or not we have defined sleep disorders, we have what is called "unrefreshing sleep."

You can learn more about unrefreshing sleep here:

I came across some interesting (and frustrating) disparities while researching these articles. First, we have more research on improving sleep in fibromyalgia than on understanding the nature of the problem - largely because of pharmaceutical companies wanting to make claims about their drugs. Second, the reverse is true of chronic fatigue syndrome, where far more studies have been done on why sleep is so poor, but there's a distinct lack of research on how to improve it.

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