Getting Quality Sleep despite Arthritis Pain

InsomniaPatients living with arthritis pain often find themselves struggling with insomnia and other sleep difficulties. In fact, 23% of Americans with arthritis have reported a link between sleep loss and arthritis pain, this according to a study out of the National Institutes for Health.[1] Interestingly, there are very few studies about the link between the sleep and arthritis pain because many arthritis patients are not reporting their sleep issues.  In fact, many do not see their sleep problems as unusual and/or feel that nothing can be done to resolve them.

For most of us living with arthritis pain, sleep is the only time we get a break from our pain.  Unfortunately, good quality sleep can be hard to acquire when pain keeps us up at night. It becomes a vicious cycle because being overtired results in making pain worse.  Even when you able to fall asleep at night, arthritis pain can also wake you up during the night or even cause you to wake up tired.  The good news is that there are ways that you can still get good quality sleep despite arthritis pain.  This involves medical treatment for both your arthritis and sleep issues and also specific strategies you can try to help with both issues.

Here are some tips to help you if you are tossing and turning at bedtime and throughout the night.

Practice good sleep habits. Having good sleep habits can help to minimize sleep issues. Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning makes a big difference. It is also helpful to keep your sleep area free from distractions.  Avoid over-arousal at least three hours before bedtime. This includes things like exercise, a heavy meal, an argument or an action packed movie. Last, create a bedtime ritual that helps to induce sleep such as taking a warm bath, listening to calming music or reading for a short time.

Cut the caffeine and alcohol: It is especially important to avoid caffeine and alcohol from late afternoon on. Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants and if consumed too close to bedtime can keep you from falling asleep and getting sleep that is restful.

Get your pain under control and check your medications. When pain is controlled, you have a better chance of getting better quality sleep. Talk to your doctor if your pain isn’t well managed to find alternative options treat and manage arthritis pain. Different medications and unconventional therapies including massage, acupuncture and relaxation techniques can provide relief for pain and stress.  Further, it is possible that the side effect of one or more of your medications is sleeplessness.  If you suspect this to be the case, talk to your doctor about different treatment options that can assist with pain management without keeping you up at night.  

Exercise daily.  If you exercise at least four to eight hours before bedtime, you will find that your sleep improves at night. This is because physical activity helps to relieve stress which is another thing that can keep you up at night.  Further, arthritis pain can be lessened through exercise. Just remember that you should not exercise two to three hours before bedtime because exercising too late can actually keep you up.

Try a sleep aid or a natural supplement: If falling asleep or getting good quality sleep has become a constant struggle for you, talk to your doctor about prescribing a sleep medication.  Sleep medications work by slowing activity in the brain so that you can fall asleep much more easily.  Sometimes, doctors will prescribe anti-depressants to help with sleep issues.  Please remember that prescription sleep aids can only be used in the short-term and for no more than a few weeks at a time.  If you are unable to take a prescription sleep aid or prefer not to use one, a dietary supplement, such as Melatonin or Valerian Root, maybe a better option.  Melatonin is a synthetic version of the natural sleep hormone that is produced in the pineal gland (a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain). Valerian Root is an herbal product made from the roots of the valerian plant.  Found as a tea or supplement, it can be used to treat sleep problems, including insomnia.

It is vital for arthritis patients to get plenty of sleep and rest because arthritis pain and sleep are intrinsically connected.  Getting better quality sleep can help arthritis patients to restore their energy levels, improve mood, lessen fatigue and minimize pain.

[1] Louie, G., et al. (2011, Jan. 28). Sleep disturbances in adults with arthritis: Prevalence, mediators, and subgroups at greatest risk.” Arthritis & Research. Retrieved from;jsessionid=2ACD34D9BC0CE9A746B7A9527166F4CB.d04t02.


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