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If you are living with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), your doctor should order a sleep study, to identify any sleep disorders you may have.

A sleep study requires that you sleep in a special lab for one night, with electrodes attached to your face and head, your chest, abdomen and legs. These electrodes allow a technician to examine your sleep patterns.

If you are suffering from CFS/ME, getting enough sleep is crucial. Better sleep leads to improved physical and mental energy.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Pace your daytime activities to conserve your energy throughout the day and prevent “crashes.”
  • Do not wait until you are exhausted before going to bed or you will go to bed wired and tired.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and plan for at least eight to 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • Avoid being very hungry or very full at bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, as they can impair sleep.
  • Do "quiet" or relaxing activities for one hour before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath with ½ cup of Epsom salts or ½ cup baking soda.
  • Make the bedroom a "worry-free zone." Use your bed for sleeping and sex only, not eating or watching TV.
  • Warm your bed with a hot water bottle before getting in. Keep the room dark and quiet while sleeping – use earplugs and an eye mask if necessary.
  • Protect your neck while you’re sleeping by using a cervical pillow or by repositioning a regular pillow to maintain a space between your shoulder and neck.
  • If you suffer from sleep apnea, use your CPAP machine.

Sleep Medications

If you find that these strategies are not working for you, medications to induce sleep might help. Discuss this option with your physician.

Some non-prescription medications, such as Gravol and certain kinds of anti-histamine, cause drowsiness as a side effect and can be used by adults who are having trouble sleeping. Discuss with your doctor any over-the-counter or natural remedies that you are considering before trying them to be sure that all of your medications are compatible.

Some people need prescription medications to help them sleep. There is no one particular medication that helps everyone. Examples of prescription medications commonly used to help induce sleep include zopiclone (Imovane), tryptophan (Tryptan), clonazepam (Rivotril), and low doses of tricyclic anti-depressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and doxepin (Sinequan). None of the medications help a person achieve a deep, restorative sleep.

Be aware that sleep medications can cause side effects, such as dizziness, headache, nausea, prolonged drowsiness, allergic reactions, impaired coordination and sleepwalking, among others. Sleeping pills can also be habit-forming and cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. If you do decide to take sleeping pills, never mix them with alcohol, as together they can have an additive effect and you may accidentally overdose. If you decide to stop taking the sleep medication, talk to your doctor first.

Sleep Disorders

Restless Leg Syndrome
Some patients with CFS/ME experience restless leg syndrome, which involves numbness and tingling in the lower limbs and restless, twitching legs. The condition makes it difficult to get enough sleep. Restless leg syndrome is exacerbated by long periods of inactivity and relieved by walking or stretching. If your sleep is disrupted by this condition, ask your doctor about medications and magnesium glycinate/citrate that may help.

Sleep Apnea
Some patients with CFS/ME have obstructive sleep apnea. Symptoms include loud snoring and periodic pauses in breathing, for at least 10 seconds, after which breathing is resumed with a snort. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, make an appointment at a local sleep clinic. Sleep apnea can be treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which uses a machine to keep the airway open and allow for continuous breathing through the nose. If you are overweight, then losing weight may also be helpful as obesity can contribute to sleep apnea. Unfortunately, correcting the sleep apnea does not eliminate the fatigue from CFS/ME.


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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Medical description


Living with CFS/ME

Activity and exercise




Pain relief


Coping emotionally

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