[Disclaimer: Today’s tips come from my personal experiences. If you are having trouble sleeping due to severe arthritis pain, please discuss this with your rheumatologist and physiotherapist who may be able to provide suggestions based on your specific situation.]
Today’s topic is one which so many of us will be familiar with: trying to get a good night’s sleep when you are in pain because of your autoimmune arthritis! How many of you have trouble sleeping because of arthritis pain? How many of you have woken up in your sleep because of joint pains? 😦 Not fun, right? Getting a good night’s sleep is especially important for as young women who may have active lives with school, work and family. We all know how extra rough a morning can be when our sleep was interrupted by joint pain, or it took us hours to fall asleep because of the pain. These repeated disturbances in sleep can really add up and put a strain on our already weakened bodies. Not to mention the bags and dark circles under our eyes and constant yawns during the day! Super glamorous, yes? 😉 How do we deal with this ongoing problem of poor sleep?
My go-to method for getting my mind off the pain at night has typically been to put on some music and focus on those pleasant tunes. Lately, however, my joints have been acting up and the pain has increased. During the day I’m able to manage (because I’m so distracted), but once I’m in bed, I suddenly realize how achy my joints feel. Simply lying in bed has become very uncomfortable and painful at times. Today I am going to discuss some ways in which we can hopefully help alleviate our pains and get a better night’s sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping due to arthritis pain, I encourage you to discuss this with your rheumatologist and physiotherapist who may be able to provide suggestions based on your specific situation. These ideas come from my personal experiences. Please feel free to share your input as well!
1. Go to sleep early, especially if you have an important engagement the next day
This may seem simplistic, but it makes sense. We lose hours off our sleep because we are contending with pain, counting sheep, making lists in our heads and trying to find other ways to relieve the pain while in bed. If you know from experience that it takes you an hour for your body to fall asleep because of arthritis pain, aim to go to sleep an hour earlier than you usually do. I know it is difficult to get enough hours of sleep when we have home-work or errands or family activities to worry about, but we can try, right? 😉
2. Sleeping position
Like many persons, I typically sleep curled up on my side, but lately that position has been stressing my hips and causing me a lot of discomfort (which prevents me from falling asleep). Elizabeth of The Girl With Arthritis gave an excellent suggestion in her post “Autumn Arthritis Help”. I actually remembered her post one night and decided to take her advice and sleep with my body stretched out, on my back (like the Smurf in the picture ;)). It helped reduce the stress on my hips a lot! It may be unnatural for many persons to sleep like this, but if you’re in too much pain, at least it can help alleviate some of that discomfort. This chart from the Wall Street Journal gives some tips on finding a suitable sleeping position based on your area of discomfort. Speaking to your physiotherapist may be useful if you are unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep.
Braces and splints can be helpful in supporting painful joints, particularly during the night period. Because our bodies aren’t constantly mobile during the night, many of us experience stiff and painful joints by the time morning comes. Ouch! 😦 I have found that splints and supports help reduce the amount of pain I experience in the morning. They also prevent my joints from “freezing” in an awkward position during the night and makes waking up a little less painful.
4. Supporting your joints with pillows/elevating joints
Cushioning our joints with pillows can help relieve strain. Basically, you just place a pillow under your joints which are painful. e.g. Since my knees and hips are so painful these days, I place a pillow under my knees, which helps reduce some of the stress on my hips and supports my knees. If my elbows and wrists are acting crazy, then I also rest my stretched arms on a pillow to give them support. Use the pillows to cushion your joints and reduce the strain on them while lying down. Again, the chart from the Wall Street Journal gives some tips on using pillows to relieve discomfort.
5. Heat and cold therapy
Many of us may be familiar with the application of heat and/or cold packs to ease swollen and painful joints. If not, read more about it in this article from WebMD.com. Personally, I find that a hot pack at night helps my painful joints to relax and helps me feel more comfortable overall. Readers, do you use heat and cold on your joints? Do these treatments help reduce pains for you?
6. Distract yourself from sadness with music or reading
Lying in your bed in the dark, in pain and all alone gives your mind the opportunity to wander. We all know how quickly the extreme pain of arthritis can make us feel sad and frustrated and eventually have us in tears. Pain and feelings of sadness almost seem to be naturally connected. The average person who breaks his hand usually has a look of pain on his face, and not a smile, right? I think it is natural to feel sad when you’re in pain. But when you live with pain almost 24 hours a day, life cannot be all about sadness and you have to find a way to brighten your mood.
When I’m in bed, I find that music does a good job of helping me to relax and keeping my mood positive and upbeat. So if you find your thoughts darkening, grab your music player and start playing some of your favourite tunes. Distract yourself with a simple video game or do a little night-time reading to tire yourself out.
I found some great reads on getting a better night’s sleep with arthritis and have shared them below:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue – http://katiestew.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/rheumatoid-arthritis-and-fatigue/
- Tackling Rheumatoid Arthritis Sleep Problems – http://rawarrior.com/tackling-rheumatoid-arthritis-sleep-problems/
- 10 Ways to Sleep Better With RA – http://www.everydayhealth.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/ways-to-sleep-better.aspx
Readers, what tips do you have for falling asleep while dealing with the pain of arthritis? Have you used any of the methods mentioned in this post? Do you find them effective? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below so that we can all learn together…and hopefully all sleep better ;). Thanks!
Wishing you all GREAT sleep and not too much pain,