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DR. ARTHRITIS SHARES: HOW ARTHRITIS AFFECTS SLEEP

Sleeping with arthritis is never easy. Ironically, good quality sleep is essential for managing arthritis symptoms as rest and recuperation is important for recovery.

According to studies, 80% of arthritis sufferers experience sleep deprivation due to the pain and stiffness they typically have in the morning. To avoid experiencing these symptoms, most arthritis patient will simply to opt get out of bed and get moving instead of lying in bed for extended periods.

This is not medically recommended as sleep deprivation has a direct effect on arthritis and actually worsens your symptoms. And if your arthritis pain at night and in the morning when you wake up is excruciating, this could actually indicate that your condition isn’t well managed and you may need to change your treatment plan.  Coordinating with your doctor can help you determine if you need additional medications or if there are other lifestyle changes that you have to make to help you sleep better. 

Put simply, the relationship between sleep and arthritis is clear: poor arthritis control worsens sleep quality, and poor sleep quality worsens how you experience your symptoms. And if you’re not careful, it can create a vicious cycle. To avoid this, we’ve put together a few tips that we hope you can find useful: 

1. See a Doctor

The issue of sleep is often neglected in medical consultations. As well as making sure that you are receiving the right dose of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory drugs (e.g ibuprofen and methotrexate) to manage your arthritis at night, doctors can prescribe you very mild sedating tablets to help you with your sleep. This ranges from sedating antihistamines (e.g piriton) to ‘’Z’’ drugs (e.g zopiclone or zolpidem) to benzodiazepines (Valium, Diazepam). Developing better sleep hygiene is paramount to conquering the ailment of arthritis and keeps you fresh throughout the day

2. Caffeine use

A lot of people rely on caffeine to get through their day. This is usually consumed in the form of coffee or soda.  It is important to be aware of the amount that you are consuming as well as the time of day you are taking it. Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks after 6pm. If regulated, this will make a huge difference in your sleep.

3. Sleep scheduling

Another aspect of sleep that is not emphasized enough is the regular schedule of sleeping. It is of utmost importance that you sleep and wake up at around the same time everyday. This is almost more important than the amount that you actually sleep. Try keeping a strict schedule on your sleeping habits e.g sleeping from 12-7 or 11-7. It is important to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every evening to be refreshed for the next day. As one gets older, the number of sleep hours increase and it is advisable for those over 60 to sleep between 8-10 hours a night. What may be useful is to keep a sleep diary and note down the times you go to bed and wake up everyday!

4. Exercise

Research shows that those who exercise regularly have better sleeping habits and better sleep hygiene. It is important to stay active if you have arthritis but also be aware of your own body limitations. Try exercise for 30mins – 2hours every single day. This can be in the form of, running, playing a sport or even walking. There are many clever devices out in the current market that tracks the number of steps you do a day (including your phone!) – be healthy and aim for 10,000 steps every single day as a target. You will see a huge difference in your life as a result. Of course if your arthritis hip pain at night or knee pain is keeping you up, running or walking may not be a practical form of exercise for you. Try swimming as this limits the stress going through your joints.

5. Wind down

Insomnia is common in arthritis sufferers. It is very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep if your mind is thinking of all the stressors in your life. It is important to have a period of at least 45 minutes where you wind down before bed. Do a relaxing activity such as watching some TV or reading a book – this helps to ease your mind and body as your body winds down before bed. Do this every night before bed and notice a huge difference to your life and sleep. Yoga and Mindfulness exercises have also shown to be beneficial and these may even benefit your arthritis pain at night!

6. Sleep apnoea

A common condition affecting the public is obstructive sleep apnoea. As a result of this, we wake up tired and feel lethargic through the day. If your partner notices that you are a heavy snorer or ‘catch your breath’’ when you sleep in the evenings, it is important to get this properly investigated.  Diagnosing and curing OSA can make a huge difference to your sleep quality and energy levels the following day.  

Follow our tips above to lead to tackle your sleep problems and notice a positive difference in your life and the management of your arthritis.

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