Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sleep

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sleep

(10 minute read)

Are you suffering from daily fatigue? In this article, you will learn to connect the dots between poor sleep and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In this article, you will learn about the connection between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and how you sleep. I will go into details about the connections between sleep and CFS, and you will learn some promising methods that may help.

You may know someone who is tired every day and can understand that this can affect everything you do on a daily basis. It is estimated that up to 2.5 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome, which is characterized by profound fatigue, sleep disturbances, pain, cognitive dysfunction, and other symptoms. In addition to the personal aspect, the economic costs related to CFS is estimated at $17–24 billion annually in the US alone.

Typical characteristics of CFS play out in ongoing fatigue that often interferes with daily activities, commonly with impaired memory function and concentration. It is also common with muscle pain and other physical factors.

The exertion felt by a person in this state of longing to get the well-deserved recovery and rest can often be challenging with a heavy mental and physical state. With a body in a chronic fight-or-flight mode, the immune system is at risk of being suppressed with less resilience. We all know the feeling of a cold and how this lowers our energy levels. This can be close to what people with CFS feel daily. A fight-or-flight response is seen as a strong factor in daily fatigue, causing the body be fully awake and alert even at night when trying to get ready for sleep.

Sleep and chronic fatigue syndrome

As we all know, adequate sleep is one of the most important factors for focus and daily energy. Without the power of a good night’s sleep, we tend to lose out on some of the satisfaction life has to offer. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often lack energy, making it less likely to be fully satisfied with life. A study with 1455 chronic fatigue syndrome patients showed that low rated quality of life was associated with poor sleep quality.

CFS with unexplained fatigue is often accompanied by unrefreshing sleep. The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, and there are no tests to determine the presence of this illness. The diagnosis is based on a scale of symptoms that should have been present for at least six months to rule out other conditions. Unrefreshing sleep is one of the main symptoms that must be present, together with lowered cognitive function or worsened symptoms upon standing up.

Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms

Some symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome are excessive daytime sleepiness, waking up tired without feeling rested, having difficulties falling asleep, being diagnosed with insomnia, or having insomnia-like symptoms of sleeplessness. Despite the high frequency of sleep-related disturbances, the exact causes of this connection are not well defined or understood. Sleep complaints are common among chronic fatigue patients; thus, the subjective experiences can differ as there is a lack of a single reason for the likelihood of this diagnose. Studies have suggested that chronic fatigue can alter a person’s sleep cycles with less restorative slow-wave and REM sleep; one misses out on vital deeper sleep stages that are important for rest and recovery.

A large number of studies have drawn the conclusion between chronic fatigue patients and some kind of sleep disorder. It has been shown that CFS patients with sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy, often experience recurrent unrefreshing nighttime sleep. It has also been shown that perceived unrefreshing sleep quality can predict fatigue the following day, along with worsened mood, focus, and memory. Sleep issues are seen as one of the main culprits for chronic fatigue syndrome; it is of high interest to put efforts into improving sleep. This could reduce the higher number of nightly waking episodes associated with decreased sleep quality often seen among CFS patients. As for waking up during the night, it has been shown that adults and adolescences with CFS take a longer time to fall asleep and have significantly lower sleep quality.

How to decrease fatigue with better sleep?

A Swedish study with 120 adolescent CFS patients showed that these individuals spend more time in bed and have more of a varied sleep-wake rhythm than healthy individuals. This indicates that a good first step is to introduce a daily nighttime routine. This is something I recommend as the first step in any sleep improvement program.

If you have listened to our other episodes or read our 8-point sleep guide, you know that there are many easy and natural ways to improve your sleep.

Blue light and chronic fatigue

As for keeping a daily nighttime routine, one of the most disturbing things in our daily environment is being overexposed to blue light just before bedtime. Blue light is good for you in the morning, as it helps you wake up and set your circadian rhythm. This is conducted through your eyes, which have specialized photoreceptors that react to the blue light spectrum. At night, activating these receptors will give your body a signal to wake up and stay alert, the opposite of what you would like to happen for a night of restorative sleep. To keep the harsh blue light away from your eyes at night, shut off all blue light-emitting devices at least one hour before bedtime. Stop using your smartphone, watching TV, or playing games on your computer.

If you want to stay connected and active until bedtime, I recommended starting using blue light blocking glasses made for sleep.

How to relieve chronic fatigue with magnesium?

A balance of the essential minerals and vitamins is vital for your overall well-being and sleep quality. Of all the minerals, magnesium stands out with proven results for relaxation and sleep. With a goal to reduce any fatigue symptoms, magnesium has been well tested to be a powerful tool. Several studies have shown promising results in supplementing magnesium to relieve chronic fatigue syndrome with improved energy levels. As magnesium is closely linked to sleep and stress, the addition of a quality magnesium supplement may support your sleep and reduce fatigue at the same time. With this in mind, consider implementing a high-quality magnesium supplement in your daily routine. Jarrow Magnesium Optimizer is a good choice, containing relaxing magnesium malate combined with vitamin B6, which supports your nervous system.

As mentioned briefly at the beginning of this episode, pain is another factor with a strong correlation to chronic fatigue syndrome. Physical pain often has a significant role in sleep problems as well as CFS. This makes chronic pain a possible source of fatigue, with pain risking to make it more difficult to achieve and sustain undisturbed sleep. It has even been demonstrated that sleep disruptions can trigger physical pain and fatigue for healthy people. Several studies have concluded that moderate and individualized exercise has the ability to reduce pain and fatigue. This finding makes exercise a good option to reduce fatigue as well as getting better sleep.

I hope you got something valuable from this article—taking your sleep to the next level. Let us educate others about the dangers of blue light and the easy way to manage our daily light consumption.

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Happy Deep Sleep,

Oskar Eriksson, M.Sc.
The Sleep Engineer™

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