This is my theory, not scientifically sound, completely baseless, the things my mind gnaws on, things to learn more about, see how far off the base I am.
There are at least three major consequences of fibromyalgia: Chronic fatigue, depression, and sleep disorder. In order to treat any disorder, the origins have to be identified. That seems to be the biggest hangup with fibromyalgia. One question I have, however, is if chronic fatigue, depression, and sleep disorder are consequences of having fibromyalgia, or are they actually triggers? Could untreated fatigue, untreated depression, untreated sleep disorders actually cause fibromyalgia? If that were the case, would identifying unusual fatigue, depression onset, or sleep disorder be a way of preventing or slowing the disease process?
Of course nothing is that easy. Everyone undergoes periods of severe fatigue or fades into depression at one time or another, and often sleep disorder is part of those natural human cycles. And then the chicken steps in again and clucks: what is the physiological cause of the fatigue in the first place? Is there a chemical imbalance that’s causing the depression? Of the three, it seems sleep disorder would be the easiest to identify and treat. Again, however, how long would a patient have to go before deciding he or she has a sleep disorder and not just a streak of insomnia before reporting to a doctor?
It’s an unhappy conundrum, but something to think about.
Personally, I look at my own history of sleep disorder and suspect strongly the sleep egg came before the pain egg. Even in elementary school I seldom slept the whole night. My sleep has always been riddled with nightmares. My brother has always ridiculed my snoring. In the late 90s, I was sleeping an hour at a time, waking literally every hour on the hour for a few days until I was so exhausted I could sleep the night. This was highlighted by the need to pee in the middle of the night – every hour on the hour. Nocturnal micturition. The key is it wasn’t just a little every hour; it was a lot.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that I’m sure was worsened with this century’s weight gain but that I’m not sure is new onset for this century. My fear, however, was that if I slept deeply, what would happen with the nocturnal micturition? Would I wet the bed? There was so much!
This is when I found out that when you sleep, your brain releases a hormone that essentially dampens the need to urinate (pun might be intended). A good healthy sleep eliminates or greatly reduces the need to get up. I started using a C-PAP machine and for the first time in literally 20 years, I slept the night through, every night. It was miraculous. And I didn’t wet the bed.
Sleeping has not reduced my pain burden, however. It did for a short time while my body figured out how to fight off the benefits of healthy sleeping. So I return to my initial question. If my sleep disorder had been diagnosed earlier – even back in elementary school – and treated, would it have reduced my risk of chronic pain? Would it have eliminated my risk of chronic pain? Is that too simplistic? Are there more forces at work?
More to come on this subject as the search continues……