When you sleep, your brain doesn’t simply shut down and turn back on again when you wake up in the morning. During the night, it is constantly going through cycles that involve five separate stages.
Stages one is considered light sleep and involves brain waves called alpha waves. These are different than brain waves when you are awake, but not my much. Their speed is eight to twelve cycles per second.
After stage one, you will enter into stage two sleep, which develops your brain waves into slower delta waves. Once you are in stage four, or deep sleep, your brain waves will consist almost entirely of delta waves. During stage four, your body is in an extreme state of relaxation. This time allows the body to restore itself, and is crucial to staying healthy.
Alpha wave interrupted sleep, technically called an alpha EEG anomaly, doesn’t allow for this restorative process to occur. In people who have this, their delta waves are frequently interrupted by the faster alpha waves. Sometimes, this will cause the person to wake up several times during the night. Other times it will simply leave the person extremely fatigued the next day, and sometimes even in pain.
For example, people with fibromyalgia usually have the alpha EEG anomaly.
Fibromyalgia is generally diagnosed as a chronic pain condition, in which the patient experiences pain in at least eleven points on their body for at least three months straight.
Because so many sufferers of fibromyalgia have the alpha EEG anomaly, it is believed that the sleep disorder could even be a cause of the pain. In any case, it certainly makes it worse. Patients with chronic pain rely on sleep to restore their muscles. When this doesn’t occur, it is only logical that the pain would get worse.
Fibromyalgia patients have said that when they get a good night’s sleep, they feel much better the next day and have the energy to get up and do things. When they don’t, however, it feels like their muscles haven’t gotten a chance to relax at all, and they are still tight and cramped from the previous day. This is why the most commonly used muscles are usually the ones in which pain develops.
The alpha EEG anomaly can often be overcome with natural sleep aids. These sleep aids regulate your sleep, preventing the bursts of alpha waves from occurring.