A resource blog for young women living with Arthritis


Falling asleep and Juvenile Arthritis

[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.]

Hi everyone!

moontiredToday’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? ūüė¶ 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? ūüėČ 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? ūüėČ

smurf2. 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.

3. Braces/splints
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! ūüė¶ 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?

music6. 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:

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,


Ms. Rainbow

[Images by pixabay.com]

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Arthritis and college support

Hi everyone! Some of you may recall that I recently shared a few tips about going away to college when you have Juvenile Arthritis. (Read the first part here and the second part here.) In keeping with that topic, I wanted to share a couple relevant links today.

The first site is the Youth Health Talk website, which I have mentioned previously on this site. There is a section specifically on going to school and college (click here to view), which you may find useful. There are quite a few videos of young persons with arthritis discussing their experiences on this site, so check out what they have to say. [http://www.youthhealthtalk.org/young_people_with_arthritis/Topic/4357]

I also found the following articles useful so check them out if you need more support:

-“Help Your Child With JA Get the Most Out of College “- http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/living-with-ja/daily-life/school-success/choose-a-college.php
-“JA Scholarships: – http://www.arthritis.org/missouri/juvenile-arthritis/

Take care everyone!
Ms. Rainbow

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Arthritis Week in the UK!

Hi everyone! This week the United Kingdom celebrates National Arthritis Week from the 7th to the 13th of October with a range of awareness events put on by Arthritis Research UK. So make sure you check it out if you live in the UK.

Through their site I came across this amazing story about 27 year old Ms. Natalie Wright, who was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) when she was 5 years old and has since had major joint surgeries to help with her mobility. I appreciate the honesty and details of this report and really hope that¬†people will¬†get a little more¬†insight into the life of young people who live with autoimmune arthritis through it.¬†If you read Natalie’s story, I’m sure many of you can relate, right? Thank you Natalie for bravely¬†sharing your story with the world and know that we are all cheering for you! ūüôā

I also came across this great article titled “The Painful Frustration of Arthritis” by Alan Silman, Medical Director at Arthritis Research UK. I could absolutely relate to this article, as I’m sure so many of you can too. For me, every physical task takes a bit more effort – from turning the handle of a door, to shampooing my hair, to holding my cup of tea. I don’t mind doing things slowly, because I know I will get there eventually. The challenging part is being¬†around persons who don’t understand autoimmune arthritis and who make a lot of negative comments about my situation. Reading through arthritis blogs I know that this is a problem for many of you too. As I’ve gotten older, my technique has been to simply educate persons if I can. The reality is that most people don’t know about Juvenile Arthritis.¬†So, until you let them know what’s going on, they won’t be able to know. Some people will¬†understand it and will support you. Some of them may¬†dismiss you, but it’s okay.¬†I know it is extremely frustrating at times, but hang in there. You have a¬†load of¬†friends around the world who are going through the same experiences, so let’s keep fighting it out, together.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! ūüėČ

‚̧ Ms. Rainbow