As you know, people with chronic fatigue often report having poor or disturbed sleep. People may have too much or too little sleep, feel unrested upon waking, or have problems falling or staying asleep. We all know the impact of a poor night’s sleep and it isn’t pleasant. A disturbed sleep pattern can impact concentration and memory, make you feel irritable, and leave you feeling extremely tired. Of course, poor sleep doesn’t account for all chronic fatigue symptoms; however, it can worsen fatigue and many cognitive functions (e.g., thinking, focus, memory etc.).
Even if sleep has not been an issue for you, you can still benefit from learning about good sleep habits. Sleep is an opportunity for our bodies to repair, both physically and mentally. The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person. Some people can function with as little as 5-6 hours per night, whilst others need as much as 10 hours to feel rested. The fatigue in chronic fatigue is not the same as sleepiness. However, people with chronic fatigue often need to sleep more and tend not to feel rested when they wake up.
Chronic illnesses, like chronic fatigue, and poor sleep habits can interfere with sleep patterns and the body’s natural ability to repair itself. Prolonged periods of sleep disruption can prevent necessary physical repair from happening, which leads to increased fatigue and pain. Other effects of poor sleep include:
- Increased psychological distress and irritability
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Trouble with thinking, memory and concentration
- Decreased work performance
- Relationship stress
- Increased clumsiness and poor coordination
- Lack of alertness
- Poor immune function and increased risk of health problems
- Increased risk of car accidents
There are some common factors that contribute to poor quality sleep. As you read through the list below, see if you can identify any that might be impacting your sleep:
- Irregular sleep patterns. Going to sleep and waking up at different times can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm and result in daytime sleepiness.
- Daytime napping. This can disrupt and reduce the quality of your sleep at night, leading to non-refreshing sleep and an irregular pattern of sleep.
- Too much time in bed not sleeping. If you spend a large amount of time in bed awake, your brain will start to associate bed with being awake, making it harder to fall asleep when you need to.
- Your environment. Aspects of your environment can make it easier or harder for you to fall asleep. Don’t have your bedroom too hot or cold, make sure your mattress is comfortable, and there isn’t too much noise or distraction.
- Diet & stimulants. Consuming too much caffeine during the day can keep you awake at night. Smoking can also interfere with sleep, as can going to bed on a full stomach.
- Daytime inactivity. Daytime activities help to set your natural body clock, by signalling when you should be awake and when you should be asleep. If you are inactive throughout the day, this can interfere with your sleep.
Unhelpful thoughts. Worries and unhelpful beliefs can interfere with sleep. For example, if you’re lying in bed worrying about getting enough sleep, it is probably the last thing you’ll be able to do.