‘Sleep’s healing balm’ | Dr James Le Fanu in the Daily Telegraph | 23 November 2015

December 1, 2015

From the Daily Telegraph, ‘The Surgery' column, 23 November 2015 (no e-link found).

Recent comments in this column on the contentious claim of the merits of positive thinking and graded exercise for those with post-viral fatigue – more commonly known as ME, or myalgic encephalomyelitis – have prompted a gust of correspondence, from which two points in particular have emerged that are worth emphasising.

First, I am grateful to a couple of readers for drawing attention to recent findings by Prof David Jones, of the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University, who confirms a defective functioning in ME patients of the muscles. Specifically, they can take up to four times longer to recover from maximal isometric contractions compared with matched controls –indicating “a profound abnormality in bioenergetic function”.

Next, while chronic fatigue is not a depressive illness, there is little doubt that, for some, antidepressants can promote recovery by countering the unrefreshing sleep that is so common a feature of the condition. “I could barely lift my head off the pillow. I was desperately tired but not sleeping at all well,” writes a woman whose post-viral fatigue followed an episode of glandular fever. Her enlightened family doctor insisted, despite her protestations, she take amitriptylene at night to help her sleep. It took some time to work, but one morning she woke feeling feeling that she had slept heavily – just as she used to do before she was ill. “Within four months I was weaned off the tablets,, and have not looked back since,” she writes.

Just over 10 years ago , I described in our sister paper a similar experience where the antidepressant sertraline restored the energy levels to a near normal in seven out of 27 readers with chronic fatigue, with a marked improvement to the associated symptoms of impaired memory, aching limbs, and hot and cold sweats. To read more, go to tinyurl.com/lefanuchronicfatigue

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