15 Jan 2018 Small Steps – Hypermobility and Sleep
Whilst much of the discussion around hypermobility and EDS focuses on movement, a common source of anxiety, frustration and stress for those living with such conditions comes from the other half of our lives – sleep.
Many people living with EDS have huge difficulties when it comes to getting enough quality sleep. Just getting into bed and moving around while in bed can cause dislocation, subluxation or trapped nerves.
After a day of experiencing fatigue and pain, we should be looking forward to finally getting into bed. This makes it even more frustrating when hypermobility makes sleep difficult. Fear of dislocation while sleeping can make going to bed a stressful and even frightening time for those who experience hypermobility.
For people with EDS, this difficulty sleeping can be made worse by Obstructive Sleep Apnea – which sees the connective tissue in the upper airways collapse while you’re trying to sleep – creating breathing difficulties.
Doing all you can to improve sleep hygiene and enhance sleep quality is something I recommend to every client I see, but people who experience hypermobility and EDS, in particular, have much to gain from a good night’s sleep. A better night’s rest will help with energy levels, focus and coordination the next day, and making getting to sleep a less stressful experience will help to relieve tension in the body that could lead to further pain.
It’s important to do as much as you can to create the right environment for sleep. Focusing on a set routine and calming actions will help put you in the right frame of mind once bedtime draws near. Otherwise, your anxiety and stress levels are likely to build throughout the evening, meaning you head to bed in exactly the wrong frame of mind needed to get a good night’s sleep.
Some simple changes you could look at making now include:
- Having a bedtime routine that you do every night will help to signal to your brain that it’s time to switch off. Involve as many pleasant elements into your routine as possible – a bath, candles, a chamomile teas. These will help you to approach ‘going to bed’ in a more positive frame of mind
- Make sure where you sleep is a space for sleep and nothing else – try not to work or watch TV in the same room that you sleep.
- Avoid screens – this isn’t just about stimulation; the blue light from screens will make you feel more awake.
- Make sure your whole body, especially your neck and head, are properly supported – invest in bedding that provides real support.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold environments can also an issue in EDS patients. Try to find the optimum temperature of your room and the right amount of cover.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal or drinking alcohol close to bedtime – these can play havoc with digestion.
For those struggling with pain, it is essential to create a state of calm and relieve existing pain in the body. This will immediately remove some of the anxiety around getting off to sleep and release tension in the body, helping you to relax. Before you go to bed tonight, try the following simple breathing exercise:
“Once in bed, close your eyes and visualise a place either real or imagined. A place which makes you feel safe, comforted and supported. Really picture it, feel it, smell it, hear it, breath it. Picture yourself there. Put yourself in this special place. Allow your breathing to reflect how happy you feel in this place. Notice the breath get longer and calmer – allowing your body and mind to relax.
Then, choose a phrase that means something to your sleep routine such as ‘I feel safe’, ‘I will sleep well’, and ‘I am calm’. Every time you exhale repeat this phrase to yourself in your head. With every repetition of the same phrase with your calming breath work, you will initiate the ‘relaxation response’ in the body. This is a proven method of relaxation, but you must keep repeating the same phrase for it to be effective. Repeat this phrase for as long as you need to drift off to sleep”.
If you’ve had a difficult night, or are experiencing fatigue throughout the day, you can help yourself to feel more awake by making sure you experience as much natural daylight as possible. Additionally, moving as much as you can, and doing the physical exercise that you feel able to do will help you to feel more alert and awake. Additionally, both daylight and movement during the day will also help with sleep quality once the evening rolls around again.
Whilst sleep presents many difficulties for those with EDS, it’s essential to try to reduce the anxiety you associate with it. Relaxation is a powerful tool for those who struggle with pain, and small steps can make the difference towards a more restful night.