It’s estimated that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) affects between 836,000 and 2.5 million people in the United States. There’s the wide range in numbers because this condition is widely misunderstood and difficult to diagnose. In fact, the CDC estimates that 90% of sufferers have not been properly diagnosed with CFS.
At HealthFirst, Dr. Jonathan Singer specializes in difficult conditions like CFS, and he has extensive experience helping patients reclaim their lives. While chronic fatigue may sound like a condition in which you’re getting too much sleep, Dr. Singer knows that quite the opposite is often true.
In this month’s blog post, we take a closer look at how CFS can wreak havoc on sleep.
While we made the heading, “CFS basics,” there’s nothing basic or simple about CFS. At the heart of CFS is overwhelming fatigue, but there are many more potential side effects, including:
- Joint pain
- Cognitive difficulties, such as problems with memory or concentration
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Bodywide muscle aches
- Post-exertional weakness and/or pain
- Difficulty sleeping
When these symptoms come together, it can make it very hard for the person with CFS to function on even a basic level. To underscore this point, one in four people with CFS are housebound for long periods and sometimes unable to get out of bed.
CFS and sleep
One of the biggest frustrations with CFS is that you’re unable to achieve restful or restorative sleep. This means that, while you may sleep for hours, the sleep is fitful and falls very short of leaving you feeling refreshed.
Going a step further, Psychology Today reports that half of people with CFS have a sleep disorder. Many have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia), while others encounter sleep apnea or narcolepsy (overwhelming daytime drowsiness).
There are many theories as to why CFS affects your sleep. One points to a bidirectional connection between CFS and pain — the chronic pain associated with CFS may lead to sleep problems or lack of restorative sleep may lead to heightened pain sensitivity.
Another theory suggests that people with CFS spend less time in slow wave and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which are the two most restorative stages of sleep.
Yet another theory suggests that CFS might stem from a malfunctioning nervous system that disrupts sleep.
While these theories about why CFS leads to sleep problems may be different, most researchers agree that the connection is there.
Fighting back against CFS
While there may be more questions than answers when it comes to CFS, alternative practitioners like Dr. Singer have had great success in treating these complex conditions by taking a holistic approach. This approach relies far less on simply managing the symptoms and more on addressing the underlying cause.
To give you an idea, Dr. Singer often treats CFS through:
If you’d like to find the right solution for your CFS-related sleep issues, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Greenwood Village, Colorado, or Cheyenne, Wyoming, to set up an appointment.