Most sufferers will agree that the fatigue of fibromyalgia can be even more disruptive than the pain. After all, many things feed fatigue – poor sleep, deconditioning, and even the pain itself – which makes it easy to fall behind in your self-care, leading to less sleep and more discomfort.
In order to break out of the exhausting cycle, you’ll need to address a few areas of your life, and revamp your daily routine to include more quality time for your mind and body. Here are some of the most effective ways to boost your energy and get back to your regular, motivated self.
1. Increase Thiamine Intake
There hasn’t been much in-depth research on thiamine therapy, but some fibro patients have had astounding results with this “super” vitamin. Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is essential for a variety of bodily functions, but it appears to have a major impact on pain and fatigue when taken in high amounts: with a dose of 1500 mg per day, many people noticeable a remarkable spike in their energy levels. There’s no guarantee that you will see life-changing results overnight with thiamine supplementation, but since thiamine is safe to take in higher amounts and brings few side effects, it may be worth discussing the option with your doctor.
2. Add Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise improves your range of motion and muscle function, but it’s also vital for increasing energy levels – and keeping them high enough to manage a daily routine. The less activity you do, the longer your muscles are left to stiffen and the more your cardiovascular system will lag. When you’re in this “deconditioned” state, your tolerance for exercise drops, and even small tasks begin to require all the energy you have to spare. However, regular aerobic activity mixed with some strength training will eventually make all the small, but unavoidable, obligations much easier to handle from dawn to dusk.
3. Supplement with Oxygen
Fibromyalgia can supress all of your muscles while you sleep, and in some cases, that can slow your lungs and heart so much that less oxygen gets to your brain. In turn, you wake up more tired than you were when you went to bed, and your mind and body will suffer. One solution is to use an oxygen tank during the night: some fibro patients find that after sleeping with a cannula, their mind is fresh and alert when they wake up in the morning. Ask your doctor to perform a sleep test in order to determine whether supplemental oxygen may be worthwhile for you.
4. Treat Sleep Apnea
Poor sleep is at the root of fatigue, and sleep apnea – one of the biggest obstacles to a good night’s rest – can go undiagnosed for years. In fact, fibromyalgia patients are 10 times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than the general population, and that irregular sleep rhythm can lower your pain threshold significantly. Luckily, there are ways to overcome sleep disturbances, beginning with a sleep study to reveal your breathing habits and brain activity while you’re asleep. The next step is treating your apnea with medication or sleep devices to regulate your air intake.
5. Rethink Your Bedroom
In order to improve your sleep, you need to improve your surroundings. Take a look at your bedroom, and decide whether you can get rid of some extraneous furniture, kick knacks, and other clutter. A tightly packed space with lots of distractions can make it harder to fall asleep, as can the level and type of light you have around you. Invest in some blackout curtains, cut out late-night screen time (the blue light form TV screen and laptops is disruptive to natural sleep patterns), and get in the habit of consciously relaxing your mind and body before your head hits the pillow.
6. Hot Water Therapy
Staying relaxed is one of the most effective ways to manage your fibromyalgia fatigue, but that can be easier said than done. Psychological techniques like progressive muscle relaxation can be very effective, but physical treatment with heat and moisture will add another welcome dimension. For instance, a hot shower will quickly relax tense muscles by opening the capillaries and improving circulation; the effects are even greater if you can manage to stretch out the shower (or bath) for more than 10 minutes. Try to start and end your day with a soothing spell in warm water, and consider investing in a shower head with a few different settings to stimulate your skin and massage your muscles.
7. Learn to Pace Yourself
It’s tempting to push your body on “good” days, but you will end up paying for it later on. The first step is understanding your particular limits and agreeing to work within them, which means you need to pay close attention to your body’s signals. Moderation is important, and knowing how and when to say “no” will help you stay on top of your daily schedule without withering away. Remind yourself that, in most cases, saying no isn’t a definitive opt-out: when you’re honest about your reasons, and do your best to reschedule, people will understand that your fatigue is just too much to handle at the moment.
8. Schedule Rests
Some days will get the better of you, and as obligations pile up, you’re at risk for a physical and mental crash. One way to defend against the crash is with carefully scheduled rests – whether that’s just taking a meditative moment away from the hubbub, or grabbing a 15 minutes cat-nap. This technique is known as “pre-emptive rest”, and it marks an important shift from a reactive life to a proactive life with fibromyalgia. Even if you don’t feel like you really need a time-out, sticking to your rest schedule creates stability, feeds stamina, and reduces symptoms.
9. Overhaul Your Diet
It should come as no surprise that your diet has a major impact on your energy levels, and since digestive problems like IBS are also linked to fibromyalgia, it becomes very important to build a better menu right away. Aside from focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, keep an eye out for potential irritants: food allergies can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms, and once you eliminate the problem, you may find that your fatigue is much more manageable. Also, try to break down your menu into several small meals, evenly spaced throughout your day, for a constant and steady energy supply.
10. Check Medication
Ironically, fibromyalgia medications may be blamed for the increasing fatigue, mental exhaustion, and heavy muscles that are weighing you down. Certain painkillers and antidepressants are known to cause daytime drowsiness, as well as problems falling asleep and staying asleep (and as you know, this can set the stage for extreme exhaustion). If you suspect your medication may be interfering with your energy, ask your doctor about changing drugs, altering your dosage, or shifting your medication schedule. It may take some time to find the right formula for your unique set of symptoms, but stick with it and keep an open mind.