What do Hockey Players and Fibromyalgia Patients Have in Common?

Hockey players- and I have taken care of a few NHL players- are elite athletes with incredible strength and stamina. Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue patients- and I have taken care of hundreds of them- are battling pain and exhaustion to try and get through every day. What could they possibly have in common? The need for a doctor that address sleep issues in a serious way.

Yes, sleep is an integral part to both hockey players (and other professional athletes) and to patients that suffer from Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome. These two groups may have different ultimate goals, but the common theme for both groups is to get the most out of situation and to maintain or recover their health. hockey and fibromyalgia

Not until recently has sleep been given its true importance in achieving optimum health or in recovering from a serious illness. I know when I was a young doctor doing my medical internship in New York city, it was looked upon with disdain if you didn’t stay up all night caring for your patients- even if you were too exhausted the next day to do a simple procedure like drawing blood.

Ariana Huffington, the famous founder of The Huffington Post, just wrote a fascinating and entertaining book, The Sleep Revolution , on how important good sound sleep is to our daily functioning. She shared her own personal story where she was so exhausted from working 24/7, that she collapsed and actually broke bones in her face.

Let’s get back to our hockey players. The New York Times today in an article titled: “ Dreaming of a Title After a Good Night’s Sleep”, discusses how hockey and other sports teams are hiring doctors to regimen the players sleep so they can perform optimally. This isn’t just out of the team’s good heart: they have had experts look at that when teams travel across the country into different time zones, the majority have losing records on the road- this may explain the “home team “ advantage more than the roaring crowd.

Doctors working with these teams have them take seriously the amount of hours of sleep the players get. They will in fact have teams skip morning practices if it means the players will get more sleep and be better rested for a night game. The doctors are also promoting sleep hygiene: sleeping in a very dark room, at a cool temperature in the mid-60’s and no use of Internet screens or TVs within an hour of bedtime. The players are also given a concoction of tart cherry juice with chamomile tea to boost melatonin the sleep hormone that rises as we get ready to fall asleep.

Now let’s get to the work at Mitchell Medical Group that we do with Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue patients. We are true followers of Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s SHINE protocol, which stands for: Sleep, Hormone balance, Immune protection, Nutrition and Exercise. But Dr. Teitelbaum clearly puts sleep as the first and most important lifestyle change that must be addressed for a patient to start to recover. At Mitchell Medical Group, we are able to prescribe sleep medications for those with significant insomnia; however, we much prefer to use combination of herbal supplements and melatonin to naturally induce sleep. But we also take the time to discuss with patients key ways to keep their biorhythm or circadian rhythm in balance. A simple example for patients: keep as close as you can the time you wake up and go to sleep during the week to the time on the weekend. Even a 2 hour time difference essentially can set into motion a type of “jet-lag”; and for patients battling pain and fatigue, like a fine-tuned athlete you want your routine to be seamless.

The bottom line: Sleep- a solid 8 hours of sleep- is just as important to a fan who wants to go see a professional hockey game in person, as a player trying to put the puck in the net.

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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