Sleep Hygiene

The Fibromyalgia Sleep Chronicles – Using a daylight alarm clock

I’ve been finding my fibromyalgia more difficult to manage since the seasons have changed. The switch from warm to cold, and from long days to short days is playing havoc in many ways for me. The cold triggers my pain, the less vitamin D triggers my fatigue and pain, and the dark mornings make it feel almost impossible to wake up (despite being awake for large portions of the night).

The one thing I learnt from last year is that if my sleep goes off, then everything goes off and for me it seems to all pin on how my mornings go. If I spring out of bed at a good time, full of energy, then my morning is less stressful and I carry that through to the rest of my day. I make better food choices  and I also sleep much better the next night as I don’t have as many anxieties floating around in my head, I have less pain, and I go to bed feeling content with my day.

If I keep on pressing the snooze button, and roll out of bed groggy and foggy, my mornings do not go well at all, and that horrible feeling of not having a good morning, being snappy with my kids, and not having the energy for my daily walk before work all hang around me like a bad smell. I feel tired all day, too tired to do the things that I know help my fibromyalgia. I often forget to take lunch to work and either don’t eat at all or make poor choices. I then get home, feel terrible, and don’t sleep very well because of the rubbish day I had. My pain increases keeping me awake too.

One thing that I know for a fact helps me to wake up is light. In the summer this is easy as the natural light provided by early sunrises are invigorating and natures way of waking anyone up naturally (see this post for information about sleep cycles). In the darker months there is nothing that gives off natural light so we have to find something else to help us.

Introducing…… the daylight alarm clock!


I’d been toying with buying one for so long but couldn’t bear the expense, but luckily, when talking about it with a friend from work, and it turned out she had one that she wasn’t using, so it’s now my new toy. The one she has leant me is a Philips Lumie.

I was excited but sceptical. Would it really work or would it just annoy me? There was only one way to find out and that was to try it!

I won’t bore you too much with the how it works bit, but in a nutshell you set the alarm for time you want to be awake and it starts to light up the room slowly in the 30 minutes prior to the time you have set. It starts off as a very dim red/amber light and builds up to a blue light (see this post all about the benefits of blue light), to a brightness of your choosing. You can also choose for a nice sound to be played as you wake up, such as wind, sea or birds. The aim is for the light to naturally bring you out of a sleep cycle, instead of being dragged out of deep sleep by your alarm clock, and so avoiding sleep inertia, which is basically that feeling you get when you have been rudely awoken by someone or something and you basically feel punch drunk.

So, I set it up for maximum brightness in the morning and birds. Turns out maximum brightness is a bit hardcore, even for someone who needs light to wake up, and I was waking up about 20 minutes before I wanted to (20 minutes is precious), and so over the last week I have worked out my ideal level to wake up at 6am is 3/4 of the maximum setting. The birds are nice too.

Waking up is definitely more gentle, no more alarm blaring in me ear and waking me up with a jolt, and that feels nice. I am still a bit sleepy when I wake up but I think that is because I’ve been a little naughty and not done all of my sleep hygiene as well as I could have rather than the light not working, so this week I am working on getting that right before I pass judgement.

Once I’m awake things are looking better. I generally get up, open the curtains (even though it is dark outside), make myself some lemon and ginger and just allow myself more time to wake up properly before I get on with my morning. My mornings are now back to being under control, and I’m managing to be more productive with more energy than I had a couple of weeks ago. My morning walks are back, I’m remembering my lunch, and I’m not rushing to the school gates anymore!

Is it as good as a bright summers morning? No. Is it better than waking up to an alarm clock and being dragged from deep sleep part of my sleep cycle? Most definitely! Most importantly, do I feel better when I wake up, is my fibromyalgia more controlled and am I sleeping better? Yes, yes, and yes!

Nothing is going to substitute the light we get on those long summer days, but this is a good compromise and I would strongly encourage you to try it if you suffer like I do in the mornings!

Do you use a daylight alarm clock? what do you think? Is there anyone it hasn’t worked for?

Don’t forget you can find me on social media by clicking the icons to the right of this article if you are on desktop or the bottom if you are on your phone/tablet.

Toodle Pip!

 

 

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Naturopathic Nutrition

Fibromyalgia and Diet – My new way of sharing

Happy new week to you all!

I’ve been wracking my brains after lasts weeks Fibromyalgia and Diet post to think of a new way of sharing the food that I eat to make it as useful as possible. It’s taken me until yesterday to work this out but I am going to try keeping a photo food dairy to share with you once per week. The aim of this diary is to share not only what I eat but whether I prepared the food myself or brought it, to share the brands I love and where I eat my food (bear with me on that last point it will make sense). My  hope it that I will be able to demonstrate that whether you are out home, at work, on a day trip or commuting, where there is a will there is a way. You can change your diet to benefit your fibromyalgia. I am also hoping it will help everyone to see that I do eat all three of my meals and not just breakfast (which I seem to snap the most pictures of).

Now, as I only thought of this yesterday, I only have yesterdays diary to share with you today, but next week will be a full week. I also need to stress that as it is a food diary, snapping where I eat my food as well as what I eat, not all of the pictures will be Instagram worthy, but they will be real…..

So without further ado, here is yesterdays food diary!

Sunday – BREAKFAST – Cocoa Porridge with berries and nut butter LUNCH – Red Thai Chicken and Veg Soup and Sea Salt Potato Crisps from Pret A Manger DINNER – Chicken Roast Dinner

I hope I’m heading in the right direction by sharing the practicalities of eating well with fibromyalgia…… I’m also thinking of putting recipes to a vote, so people can choose each week which recipe I should share on the blog the following week 🙂 Would my readers like that? Let me know in the comments section below.

For now, toodle pip and happy eating!

You can find me over on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, where I share articles that I have found helpful, things that make me happy, and of course, food, food, food.

Recipes

Recipe – Gluten and dairy free, berry nice chocolate chip granola!

It’s National Chocolate Week! So it would be wrong if I didn’t post a recipe that had something chocolatey in it right? Right. However, as I am still low sugar, I wanted to make something that tasted naughty but actually isn’t too sugary. So I have come up with this granola recipe to tickle your taste buds in the mornings. Of course it is gluten and dairy free, and also suitable for vegans 🙂

When I think of chocolate these days, I obviously think of dark chocolate, and when I was thinking of what goes well with dark chocolate I thought ‘What goes better with dark chocolate than cherries?’ and the answer of course was not much! Maybe orange, but it’s too close to call!

Then I instantly thought of almonds and suddenly I had the idea of cherry, almond and dark chocolate chip granola, but I couldn’t find enough cherries to my liking that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg so it turned into cherries, cranberries and blueberries. I also can’t bear to not put pecans in my granola, so chucked them in too, and some pumpkin seeds for a bit of colour.

What I was left with was a rather lovely little granola recipe that I am just dying to share with you all, so here goes!

Gluten and dairy free, berry nice chocolate chip granola

Ingredients – Makes 850g – 1kg

  • 100ml maple syrup (or you can use honey/agave syrup)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 250g gluten free oats
  • 100g pecans
  • 100g almonds
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 200g mixed berries, I went with cherries, cranberries and blueberries
  • 100g dark chocolate chips (dairy free of course!) – you could replace with a few cacao nibs if you like!

Method

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Preheat the oven the to gas mark 4 (180 degrees). Pop the maple syrup and coconut oil into a small saucepan and heat over a gentle heat until oil has melted and the oil and syrup are combined.
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Meanwhile mix the oats, nuts and seeds together in a large mixing bowl. I choose to leave my nuts whole, and I like it this way, plus chopping them also hurts my hands because of my fibromyalgia, but if you like your chopped then go ahead! Pour the melted oil and maple syrup over the mixture and give it a good stir until all the mix is well coated with the oil and syrup.
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Line a baking sheet with some baking parchment and spread the granola mixture onto the tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, removing to turn the mixture over every five minutes or so, this way the bottom won’t burn!
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Leave to cool completely on the tray. When you first take the granola out of the oven it will still be soft, but as it cools it goes all nice and crunchy. Once completely cool, place into a large mixing bowl and mix in your berries and chocolate chips so that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Enjoy! I personally love to eat my granola with some thick coconut yoghurt, and if I’m feeling really fancy I might chuck some fruit compote on too, but you could also enjoy with some nice cold non dairy milk. Or maybe even sprinkle over some porridge (imagine the dark chocolate going all melty, yum!)

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I hope you have enjoyed this recipe, do leave your comments down below should you so wish 🙂 or pop over and say hello on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. also don’t forget to check out my other recipes here!

Toodle Pip!

Sleep Hygiene

The Fibromyalgia Sleep Chronicles #10 – Whats on my bedside table?

As this series draws to an end (I don’t think I’ve missed too much out), I thought it would be fun to move it forwards with a once per month round up of whats on my bedside table. What’s on your bedside is really important when it comes to sleeping (check out this post as to why!) Think book recommendations, things that will help you to sleep, and anything else that I happen to find delight in. Simple really, and I’m going to dive on in by sharing with you what is currently on my bedside table. These are all things that help me with my fibromyalgia, in ways that aren’t always obvious but still work!


Candle – Sweet orchid and coconut candle from Sainbury’s, cheap and cheerful at £4 but it lasts for ages, and smells divine. I like a good sized candle on my bedside table to provide and gentle and relaxing reading light.

Tea – Currently drinking Heath and Heather Sleep tea, with spearmint, chamomile, rosehip and nettles ,amongst other lovely herbs. A beautifully relaxing cuppa before bed.

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Magazine – The Simple Things. Really lovely magazine promoting mindfulness, gratitude and full of stories from awesomely inspirational people!


Book – Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – Sequel to the mazing Wolf Hall, this second book looking at the downfall of Anne Boleyn from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view, and a great view into life at the court of Henry VIII. Not everyones cup of tea but I love it! Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012 and the Costa Book of the year 2012.


Book – Little book of Lykke by Meik Wiking, sequel to the Little Book of Hygge, a wonderful little companion book all about finding happiness from the simple things in life.


Whats on you’re bedside table at the moment? I am always very much up for recommendations! Remember, to keep it calm, relaxed and inspirational!

Come say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!

Toodle Pip!

Naturopathic Nutrition

Fibromyalgia and diet – My top ten tips!

I’ve come to realise that these last few fibromyalgia and diet posts I’ve just warbled on about me and my food loves! I hope that you are finding it helpful, particularly if you are thinking about going gluten or dairy free, and also hoping that it shows that gluten and dairy free doesn’t mean boring or the end of good food!

So this week is a little bit more of the food Ive eaten recently, but also wanted to give some tips that I have picked up along the last 8 months or so since I have made the changes to help manage my diet, particularly from the gluten and dairy aspect. So here’s my top ten tips!

  • Make a food plan for the week and try to stick to it.
  • Cook as much in advance on a good day as you can, that way if you have a bad day you have something to fall back on.
  • Have plenty of fruit in the fridge to snack on for your desperate times!
  • Don’t alway be drawn towards the food that is labelled as gluten or dairy free, check out the labels on some regular foods too and you might be surprised and you’ll save money.
  • Cook things from scratch where you can so you know exactly what has gone into your food.
  • Get some good cook books! My particular favourites are 26 Grains, River Cottage Light and Easy and The free from cookbook from the Intolerant Gourmet. I have the Leon Cookbooks and Deliciously Ella on my wish list.
  • Try to alter some regular recipes and replace some ingredients with those suitable to your diet, for example replacing butter with coconut oil. Sometimes it may be a disaster but other times it will be a triumph.
  • Visit a decent health food shop for inspiration. While they can be expensive, I often go just to get ideas and then make food out of ingredients from my local supermarket which is much cheaper.
  • When eating out, check out the restaurant menu online if you can so you aren’t under pressure to work things out when you are there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what the chef can do for you if there isn’t much on the menu that fits your needs, most places are very accommodating.

I’m really keen to know what your top tips are, and also what you would like to see on the blog from a diet point of view. I’m planning on carrying on with the anti inflammatory series and whizzing up some more easy recipes for you, but what else would you like to see? Do you like to see what I’ve been chowing down on, or is that getting boring now? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Now for the food porn. Admittedly I’ve not snapped much food this week so this is more from the past month or so….

Honey, Lemon and Blueberry cupcakes from the intolerant gourmet cookbook. Refined sugar free!
Honey, Lemon and Blueberry cupcakes from the intolerant gourmet cookbook. Refined sugar free!
Smoothie
Raspberry and banana smoothie made with coconut milk
Gluten and Dairy free Yorkshire pudding
Gluten and Dairy Free Yorkshire pudding and featured as Recipe of the Week on the blog. Click here for the recipe.
Coconut Porridge
Gluten and Dairy Free Coconut Porridge with almonds, nut butter and banana.
Thats all for this weeks food dairy, see you next week! Don’t forget to come and say hello over of social media on Facebook, Twitter Pinterest or Instagram!

Aromatherapy

Fragrant Fridays – Fibromyalgia Massage Blend

Welcome back to another instalment of Fragrant Friday…. its been a while!

Anyway, following on from my first three posts looking at the benefits and use of Lavender, Peppermint, and Black Pepper, I would like to share with you an easy and effective massage oil blend to help with those niggling symptoms of Fibromyalgia, or if you don’t suffer with fibromyalgia, any niggling aches and pains you may have.

This massage blend is for me, effective in easy any joint and muscle pain I may have and it is super relaxing, so I find it best to use after I have had a bath and when I’m winding down to bed. I sometimes use it for a little bit of self massage, particularly if I have pain in my joints, and if I’m good, my husband will give my back a good run for me, which is where I get the worst of my pain, mostly because I can’t reach it to do anything about it.

I’ve already been through the benefits of these three essential oils in my previous posts, so will mostly concentrate on sharing the ‘recipe’ with you today, but I will leave the links to these posts for you to read should you wish to. This is just one way of combining and using these three essential oils, but as you will see in the original posts there are so many ways you can use them!

 

Fibromyalgia Massage Blend

  • 100mls base oil – I like to use sweet almond oil
  • 40 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 40 drops of peppermint essential oil
  • 20 drops of black pepper essential oil

Simply mix into a glass bottle and use! This blend smells great too and works really well if you pour a little of it into a bath!

If you would like to know more about the essential oils I have used in this blend then please visit these pages –

Fragrant Fridays – Lavender

Fragrant Friday – Peppermint

Fragrant Friday – Black Pepper

Are there any massage blends you find helpful? Share your recipes here!

Toodle pip!

 

 

Fibromyalgia UK Magazine

Fibromyalgia – When you can’t see the wood for the trees

As featured in the August Edition of Fibromyalgia UK Magazine

For many, a Fibromyalgia diagnosis can come after a very long time of trying to work out what is happening to your body. There will likely have been numerous appointments, many tests, sometimes misidiagnosis, and before you have even embarked on becoming better, your brain is already full to bursting with information. So how can it be possible to know which way to turn? I’d like to share with you my way of working all of this out.

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There’s the old saying “You can’t see the wood for the trees” and that can often be true when working out which treatment course to embark upon. There are many pieces or research, lots of data, even more articles, and there is alway someone who wants to tell you about their daughters, friends, cousins wife who has fibromyalgia and what works for her.

After diagnosis and my initial grief, I managed to dust myself down, and stand up against the fibromyalgia, but choosing which path to take was not always easy, and I had to do many u turns on my journey to becoming well enough to return to work and the life I love.

Which medication should I choose? Should I choose any medication at all? What about complimentary therapies? I’ve heard diet makes a difference, is this true? How do I even talk to specialists about treatment without a referral?

This first step for me was to think about what I truly wanted for my treatment. Now, I’m not somebody who takes even paracetamol particularly easy, so would I realistically be able to take the opiates and sleeping tablets I was being offered? Probably not, so while not striking this path off my list of options entirely, I did put them to one side. Which ultimately meant going down a less medicalised, more complimentary approach.

I started by looking at what was available to me either on the NHS or privately within my very small budget, and then looked at the research behind whether or not these treatments were effective. There was no point in looking up treatments for something I couldn’t afford as I would only have felt resentful that it may benefit me but I would simply never know. You also have to think outside of the box a little if you don’t want risk not being able to put food on the table in your quest to treat your fibromyalgia. Do you know someone who may be able to offer some therapy for mates rates? Is there a local college or university nearby that offers heavily discounted rates for essentially the same treatment overseen by a qualified practitioner? Are there any trials going on within your NHS trust that you can participate in?

Even with my limited budget and NHS offers there was still a wide range of things I could try, CBT, physiotherapy, mindfulness, acupuncture, looking at my nutrition, exercise, massage, but it was difficult to know where to start. In the end I started by looking at what I could get for free, for obvious reasons, before working out what I would need to fund myself. I asked my rheumatologist if there were any trials I could participate in and this is where I accessed my CBT, and I got it very quickly. I asked my occupational health department what they could offer and from this I managed to access Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. I then asked around my friends and family via social media if they know anybody that offered complementary services and from this I managed to get acupuncture and nutrition very cheap. And finally I looked at what I could teach myself and from this I developed my own exercise programme in collaboration with my free physiotherapy and taught myself mindfulness with the aid of a cheap phone app. I’m currently exploring massage through a local college which offers an hour long full body massage for £18!

However, even with all of these wonderful services at my disposal I was careful not to jump in and try them all at once. I staggered my trials of each treatment by a few weeks and kept a symptom diary to monitor the impact on my symptoms. Had I started them all at once, I wouldn’t have known what was helping and what wasn’t. By staggering my approach I managed to ascertain what worked well and what didn’t and as a result I have almost completed a course of CBT, have a manageable exercise program, have made permanent changes to my diet, made permanent changes to my work environment, and most importantly I feel a whole load better.

So I guess the trick to finding a treatment that works for you is to think about what type of person you are and what type of treatment you can commit to. Can you commit to doing your own physiotherapy everyday? Will you be honest and open enough for CBT? Do you mind taking medication? Do you have a needle phobia? What is available? What can I afford? Once you have answered these questions you can then start looking at ways to access the treatment and use them to hopefully, one day, thrive with fibromyalgia.

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