Rheumatoid Arthritis: Coping with Insomnia and Sleep Problems
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sleep
Rheumatoid arthritis affects just about every part of your body, and causes constant pain in many sufferers. The discomfort of having RA and the stress of the disease can also lead to sleep problems. Learn about the relationship between RA and sleep problems and the best treatment options for you.
The Importance of Shut-Eye
Sleep is elemental to good physical and mental health. The National Institutes of Health says our immune system relies on sleep to function properly. Because RA patients already have compromised immune systems, getting enough sleep is very important. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep a night and take naps or rest during the day.
Because RA causes great discomfort, falling asleep can be a problem, and so can staying asleep, and not sleeping enough.
Sleep and RA Treatments
Sleep problems can be complicated by RA treatments. Corticosteroids, which are commonly prescribed for the joint inflammation caused by RA, can make you feel awake. Painkillers, on the other hand, can make you so drowsy you fall asleep during the day, and then have trouble sleeping at night. Additionally, the effects of RA can cause sleep apnea, a condition that can make your sleep erratic.
What Might Help
There are many ways to cope with the sleep problems associated with RA. Some medical treatments can help you, including modifying the time of day you take your medications. Changing a few dietary habits can have a positive effect on how well you sleep as well as following particular sleep routines and practices. Finally, gentle, moderate exercise can relax your body, relieve pain, and help you sleep.
What Your Doctor Can Do
It’s important to discuss with your doctor how your prescription medications might be affecting you. Your doctor might change the time at which you take certain medicines, or recommend taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers during the day, and narcotic pain relievers at night. Always take your medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes.
Healthy Sleep Practices
You can improve your sleep routine with a few simple habits. Go to bed and wake up at a set time as a consistent bedtime is essential for healthy sleep. Establish a bedtime routine in which your activities get increasingly calm throughout the evening. You might begin by turning off computers and other screens, take a relaxing bath, and then change into comfortable nightclothes. Finally, allow yourself at least an hour of winding down time as you prepare for bed.
There are many opinions about how foods affect sleep, but one thing is certain: eating a big meal before bedtime is likely to keep you awake. Caffeine and alcohol affect sleep quality. As RA makes you tired, you might like the feeling you get when you drink caffeinated beverages, but be sure to consume these drinks in the morning to avoid insomnia at night. While alcoholic beverages can make you feel sleepy at first, your quality of sleep after drinking alcohol isn’t ideal.
Gentle exercise can help RA patients feel reduced pain and may improve sleep. Your doctor may already have recommended you see a physical therapist. They can instruct you in flexibility and strengthening exercises that may help reduce your RA discomfort. You can also gently stretch with yoga or the Chinese exercise Tai Chi. Aerobic exercise is also recommended, as long as it’s moderate enough that you can talk comfortably as you exercise.
Disease-related pain and treatments can affect your ability to sleep, and so can the stress of being sick. Luckily, there are a number of approaches you can take towards better sleep. Create a gentle exercise regimen; set a regular bedtime routine; and talk to your doctor about treatment modifications that can help you rest. Do as much as you can to reduce stress in your life, including eating right and asking for the help you need. Better sleep will make you stronger and more able to cope with your disease.
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