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I don’t know if this is more of a review or a testimonial. Let me just say that I find Belleruth Naparstek’s healthjourneys guided meditation CDs an amazingly helpful coping tool.

I typically practice mindfulness meditation, which involves concentration and focusing on particular sensations in the body without an attempt to control or influence those sensations. This allows me to stay in the present moment, develop concentration, and change my relationship with my pain. I’ve written a lot about it in previous blog posts.

Guided meditation involves, well, following a guide’s mental imagery. This could include a mental journey to a sacred or safe space, visualizing something that you want to happen, a guide to letting go of anger, and much more. I can’t speak to it as much, because most of my experience with guided meditation has been at the end of a yoga class.

Each of the healthjourneys meditations focus on a particular issue, including relaxation, sleep, PTSD, and even fibromyalgia. I bought the mp3 of the fibromyalgia CD, and I’ve been listening to it at night. One of the things mentioned in the CD is that it works even if you’re sleeping, because your unconscious brain will absorb what is said. I’m not sure how much scientific research has gone into that claim, but I will say that I’ve slept better than I have in years.

My favorite imagery on the fibromyalgia meditation involves listening to your body like it’s an old friend, as it’s your oldest companion. Belleruth takes you through a body scan. There’s also a lot of focus on the breath, and on breathing out negativity and taking in healing. It’s a really nice CD, and listening to it has definitely helped me fall asleep.

Meditation CDs are somewhat idiosyncratic, as what one person finds soothing another person may find annoying. Belleruth’s voice is deep, almost husky. At first it kind of made me giggle, but now I’m glad that it’s slow and steady. It makes her voice easier to sleep to. You can listen to an audio sample of the fibromyalgia meditation on this page, underneath where the checkout information is.

Each CD also has a series of affirmations, which you can apparently listen to in the car as well. I like the affirmations, so I mostly just listen to them when I’m sleeping.

Ever tried a guided meditation CDs? Feel free to comment with some of your experiences.

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They say that having a routine really helps with your sleep cycle. I can attest to that, as recently I’ve had more motivation to get up in the mornings.

My folks are out of town, and so my dog is sleeping with me at the moment. While he’s pretty good about not doing a 6 am wake up call, he does want his breakfast in the morning. When I start to move to hit the snooze button, I hear a thump-thump-thump of his tail wagging, and he looks at me hopefully. I’m definitely motivated to make sure he gets to go outside and relieve himself in the morning, instead of getting desperate and making use of the floor.

I’m also helping to look after the garden. Huge gardens and summer heat means lots of watering. It’s best to water in the morning, so (A) the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the afternoon bake, and (B) unlike in the evening, the leaves have a chance to dry off, which helps prevent disease. Lugging a hose around is heavy work, and I also do not want to do it in the afternoon sauna. (Seriously, this is our 11th day with temperatuers above 90 degrees F and horrible icky humidity.)

Anyway, having tasks in the morning has helped me move my out-of-bed time from 10:30 to 8:30.

Now I just have to come up with good motivation for when my folks come back.

I think I’d forgotten fatigue was a main component of fibromyalgia. The pain can be so all-consuming at times. Do I take medication or try to manage it through other techniques like meditation? What time is my physical therapy appointment? Am I sitting with correct posture, or is this going to hurt later?

Lately, the fatigue has really been getting me down.

Sunday went something like this.

9:45 am: Oh great! I woke up before 10 am without the alarm. I must really be making progress with my sleep, I’m so excited.

11:00 am: Well, I’m kind of sleepy. The couch looks really nice for a nap right now. But I’m trying to cut out daytime sleep, so I’ll avoid it.

12:00 noon: Okay, maybe reading will distract me from wanting to sleep.

1:00 pm: Right-o, I have to get ready for an appointment. That should keep me occupied.

2:00-4:00 pm: Appointment happening. My eyes are a little blurry towards the end, and I’m having some trouble focusing. Is this fibro fog, fatigue, or something “normal”?

5:00 pm: Food sounds really good right now. I’ll do that.

6:00 pm: Back at the house. What to do?

6:05 pm: Oops, I sat with my neck turned to the left while I was listening to someone. Now my whole left side hurts. Ow ow ow.

6:30 pm: Shit, this really hurts. I guess I’ll take some medication.

6:45 pm: And the meds are making me drowsy. Well, I guess this is as good a reason as any to take a nap.

9:00 pm: Woke up from nap. Dammit, this is really going to throw my whole sleep cycle off.

9:30 pm: Better head towards getting sleepy – maybe read a book or something.

11:00 pm: Sucked into the internet vortex of webcomics, news articles, and random nonsense.

12:00 midnight: I should probably go to bed, but this is really interesting.

1:00 am: Is it 1:00 already? Well, I’ll head to bed in a minute.

2:000 am: Shit shit shit, I was really hoping to get my sleep cycle adjusted. I’ll brush my teeth and such.

2:30 am: In bed. Trying to fall asleep with my new relaxation CD. It seems to be helping, although mostly right now my breathing is nice and relaxed and my limbs feel heavyyyyyyyyyyyy…zzz.

And this is the saga of my day yesterday. It really feels like I’m stuck in this endless cycle of fighting with sleep. Will it be relaxing? How to coax myself to bed on time? How to wake up in the morning before it gets really late? And of course, the struggle to avoid daytime sleep.

I’ve read all of this stuff on sleep hygiene and the like, but it’s so much harder to do in practice.

I’ve been keeping a fairly comprehensive log of pain, sleep, exercise, food, weather, and general health. I’m still collecting data, and figuring out the best ways to analyze it. (How do I isolate variables when there are so many? I guess I should collect a lot of data points.)

There was one correlation that lept off the screen, and I thought I’d share it here in visual form. The two lines are “sleep quality” and “morning pain level,” both ranked on a 1-10 scale. In this case, one is the best possible scenario. Ten is really, really terrible.

See if you notice a pattern.

The part towards the right where it appears that there is only one line is actually the two lines overlapping.

I recently realized that I dread going to sleep. It’s not a nice, relaxing, mmm-this-is-going-to-be-good experience. I basically feel as though I go to bed, am unconscious (hopefully) for a number of hours, have the occasional bizarre dream, and wake up just as exhausted as when I first went to bed. I do not feel rested.

Apparently this is not normal, even though I’m so used to it at this point that I forget some people actually enjoy sleeping. Long story short, I’m going to see my doctor about sleep quality. Poor sleep is associated with fibromyalgia. I’m just hoping that something can be done about it.

There’s an intriguing video over on the NOVA scienceNOW website – a show on the U.S. Public Broadcasting Station. (Basically, it aims to provide interesting scientific information in roughly 10 minute segments.)

The episode in question has to do with sleep and memory. It covers such things as fruit fly sleep (and areas of their brains that are active when sleeping), rats who dream of mazes, and human memory. I won’t include too many spoilers, but suffice it to say that there seems to be a strong possibility that sleep is related to memory in humans. It also seems to affect learning. Think about studying for an exam before bed, and that information being reinforced overnight. Or what about those times people decide to “sleep on a problem.”

I can’t help wondering what exactly that means for people with fibromyalgia. If we don’t sleep well, does that affect our memories? Perhaps this connection between sleep and memory accounts for fibro fog. All this is, of course, my own personal speculation. It seems that other people have already thought of it. According to Arthritis Today,

One of the most popular theories about fibro fog has been that these problems are caused by sleep deprivation and/or depression, but one study [note: one] found that neither poor sleep nor depression seemed related to cognitive performance.  Brain scan studies have shown that from time to time, people with fibromyalgia do not receive enough oxygen in different parts of their brain. One possible reason is that part of their nervous system is off-kilter, causing changes in the brain’s blood vessels.

New research – though not on fibromyalgia specifically – shows that chronic pain itself may affect the brain. A technology called functional MRI found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the brain mostly associated with emotion is constantly active. The affected areas fail to “shut off” when they should, wearing out neurons and disturbing the balance of the brain as a whole.

Again my own speculation – sleep, pain, and the brain are such complex issues that perhaps there are multiple causes at play. I guess I’ll be researching chronic pain and the brain next.

Regardless of my own pet theories, I like keeping up to date on sleep research. I hope you enjoy the video as well – it’s about 12 minutes, and quite entertaining.

Rusty blackbirds are called “rusty” because their call sounds a bit like rusty hinges. There was a whole flock of them around our campsite, and we awoke to dawn light and a rusty blackbird chorus. Be forewarned that camping isn’t always quiet!

When did our “test run” in the backyard, we got a taste of what a fox’s mating call sounds like. It’s a bit disconcerting. (Here’s a sample from another Youtube user.)

All in all – if you’re going camping and you have fibromyalgia, either learn to appreciate nature noises or bring earplugs. I happen to like the ambiance, but if you already have trouble sleeping it might be good to come prepared for crazy animal/bird sounds.

I have a really challenging time with my sleep cycle. I’m on a lot of medications which make me sleepy at night. I still tend to get sucked into the internet or chatting with friends or something late at night. Lately, I’ve been falling asleep at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and waking up around noon. It’s a habit that’s really hard to break, once you’re on that sleep cycle.

I know that sleep is really important for fibromyalgia, and that people with fibro tend to have disturbed sleep anyway. There’s lots of research about difficulty getting through all the stages of sleep, which of course I can’t locate now. However, the Mayo Clinic website does note that, “People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they seem to get plenty of sleep. Experts believe that these people rarely reach the deep restorative stage of sleep.”

I had a really good dream last night, in which I felt whole and loved. It helped that it was set in the mountains of Massachusetts, and the scenery was gorgeous.

Anyway, let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sleeping from 11:30 pm to 6:30 am. As an added bonus, I woke up refreshed.

I decided to restart my sleep journal, something that’s helped in the past. A sleep journal is basically a chart where you write down things about your sleep for the night (hours slept, time to bed, etc.). Sometimes writing down the hours you sleep, etc. helps you notice patterns. Also, I am usually motivated to record “improved” sleep hours.

In case you’re interested, here are the things I keep track of in my sleep journal (when I remember to write them down):

  • Day of Week/Date
  • Time to Sleep
  • Duration and Number of times awakened during the night
  • Alarm Time
  • Out of Bed Time
  • Total Nighttime Sleep
  • Meds (am & pm)
  • Daytime sleep
  • In the morning, did you feel: Tired/Refreshed?
  • Did you remember any dreams?
  • What did you do one hour before going to sleep?
  • Notes

I usually keep track of them in a google document, so that I can update it from whatever computer I want to. Also, I like spreadsheets.

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to www.etsy.com/people/RogueCrafter

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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