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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fibromyalgia, Cortisol, and the Biological Circadian Rhythm

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain throughout the body. Physiologically, research has delineated it as a serotonergic deficit1 and cortisol deficiency. Poor sleep is a common symptom of fibromyalgia.

Cortisol is a hormone. Physical training and long-term stress such as deadlines usually increase cortisol levels. Cortisol levels normally peak upon waking promoting wakefulness before giving way to melatonin secretion by bedtime. Cortisol suppresses immunity and bone anabolism; abnormally high daytime cortisol levels also inhibit the recollection of memories and eventually damage the hippocampus.2

The rhythms of subjects' serum cortisol concentrations are normally governed by cycles of light and darkness characterizing day and night. Cortisol concentrations are actually only one of the many physiological properties that follow such rhythms, a complete rhythm including all a subject's physiological properties that are modulated in it being called a Circadian rhythm.3 Many such physiological properties are not directly determined by ranges of lux but instead by levels of hormones that such light levels affect; so when I read that doing yoga can ameliorate ones fibromyalgia by increasing cortisol levels4, I think that this could improve fibromyalgia patients' sleep qualities not because of a directional effect of cortisol but by enhancing their Circadian rhythms.


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