Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory joint condition, causes joint swelling, pain, and stiffness. But those who have RA know that this autoimmune disorder also can lead to serious fatigue.
Fatigue can make it hard to get through your daily activities at home and work.
Recognize that feeling tired can be a part of having RA. If you experience this symptom, understand that it’s not weakness on your part. Fatigue is something that everyone with RA must learn to manage.
It’s important to understand this and to make any necessary changes, rather than deny the fatigue you’re experiencing. If you’re realistic about your condition and symptoms, you’re more likely to lessen or overcome them.
Adapt your schedule to help control your fatigue. How you change your daily schedule depends on your personal needs, and on your decision regarding the best time for you to rest and sleep.
For example, you might consider beginning your daily activities a few hours later than usual. By doing so, you can sleep in and may have an easier time with RA-related morning stiffness.
Another option is to plan a regular afternoon rest time. For some people with RA, a midday nap provides more energy to get through the rest of the day.
Talk with your doctor about how revising your schedule can help with your condition.
Everyone needs to allow time for rest, and when you have RA, getting adequate rest is particularly important. However, it’s still important to be active.
Doing too little can also lead to fatigue, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Do some light exercise every day to help keep your joints in shape and to avoid muscle deconditioning.
This 2013 study shows that physical activity can help people with RA manage fatigue. Regular exercise also can make it easier to get a good night’s sleep.
People with RA have special challenges when it comes to sleep. For example, you may experience any of the following:
- have a hard time falling asleep due to pain
- wake up from pain before you’ve gotten enough sleep
- wake up frequently while trying to sleep
Trouble sleeping at night can make you feel drowsier during the day. Consider resting and taking daytime naps.
If you have tried lifestyle changes like daily exercise and changing your sleep and rest schedule and you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible sleep aids.
Since individuals with RA may tire more easily than those without it, you need to make choices about how to spend your time and energy efficiently.
Conserve your energy by skipping certain physically strenuous activities. This may make it easier to do other more important activities later on.
Decide which activities are your top priorities and save those things for the time of the day when you have the most energy.
While it’s never easy to turn down things you want to do, being selective can help you conserve energy for what matters most to you.
One of the best ways to get more energy is to draw on the strength of others. Friends and loved ones can lend you their energy and support when you feel tired.
Asking for help can make it easier for you to accomplish what you need to do. If it’s difficult for you to reach out for help, think about exchanging errands with someone.
Perhaps you can ask someone to do a favor for you when you’re too tired and you can return the favor when you have more energy.
Research published in Arthritis and Rheumatism found that people with RA experience a more severe form of fatigue than everyday tiredness.
It can be “extreme, often not earned, and unresolving,” according to the researchers.
Another study, published in Rheumatology, found that fatigue related to RA can feel “overwhelming” and seriously affect quality of life.
It’s important to learn how to effectively address your fatigue. By following proven tips and consulting your doctor, you’ll have a better chance of managing your fatigue.