Healthy Living

What to Do if RA Affects Sleep Habits

What to Do if RA Affects Sleep Habits

When you are in pain, it is hard to sleep. Sleeping through the night might be a challenge if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Since a full night of sleep is very important, finding help and treatment are vital. Without sleep, you may experience fatigue, depression, and irritability, which could all worsen your RA symptoms. A brutal cycle of sleep deprivation and pain may occur if neither problem is handled. A lack of sleep may affect the central nervous system. The central nervous system controls the nerves around our joints and tissues. As a result, limiting pain signals to the central nervous system can decrease pain with rheumatoid arthritis.

What else can you do to help? Is there a way to limit pain enough to make sleep manageable? When you aren’t feeling well, it is easy to feel discouraged. However, there are several strategies to attacking the symptoms that prevent sleep.

Get comfortable

Having a comfortable bed and pillows is another step that will allow you to sleep. If you already suffer from pain, you do not want to add soreness from a poor mattress or pillows. Allowing blood flow to your extremities is also important. Position yourself in a way that does not exert extra pressure on any body part. Avoid heavy blankets or any sort of extra weight on the body while sleeping. It may not seem enough to disturb your sleep, but little things can wake up those with rheumatoid arthritis. Make sure you have ample room to move around in your sleep. Feeling cramped can tense up the body, further worsening the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. There are also several other conditions with high comorbidity to rheumatoid arthritis. If you are concerned that you might have sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, speak to your physician. Both can disturb sleep and make rheumatoid arthritis worse.

Pain medications

Having a way to minimize your pain is a valuable step to getting better sleep. Having medications that limit pain and are the right dosage will help you get through the night. Some types of medications that tend to help rheumatoid arthritis are: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, biological agents, and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. While these medications all target different aspects of the condition, they can get your symptoms under better control. Work with your doctor to find the right dosage. It might take a while to sort out the right combination. Be patient and you will find yourself getting a full night of rested sleep. With the pain and inflammation dulled, the impetus to wake up during sleep will decrease. Ask your doctor about any side effects from these medications that may interrupt sleep. If medications are not enough to make this condition manageable, physical therapy and surgery are options. While physical therapy is time intensive, it will strengthen the body and increase flexibility. Surgery is a costlier and more intensive option. Surgery can fuse joints and repair tendons. Just be aware that surgery can increase your pain, at least in the short term.

Limiting depression and anxiety

This condition is associated with an increase in depression and anxiety. A lack of sleep makes these conditions worse. Anxiety increases with a lack of sleep. You may feel moody and irritable as well. Working on controlling these conditions can improve your sleep. Seeing a therapist or psychologist may help the depression and anxiety. Psychiatric medications are another option to decrease anxiety and depression. It can be frustrating when you have a disorder that causes pain and swelling. Talking about your condition may also relieve stress. Find a support group to talk about your frustrations. Journaling your thoughts and detailing your symptoms will increase your awareness of the condition.

Once you attack the underlying causes of sleep deprivation, sleeping will become easier.

Make your sleep regular

For everyone, having a normal sleep schedule is important to adjusting the body to sleep. Conditioning yourself to fall asleep at the same time every day allows your body to fall and stay asleep. This may seem difficult at first. Set an alarm clock or calendar invite to remind yourself it is time to sleep. Be sure to turn off distractions and get into bed. Over time, this schedule will become more routine and your body will be conditioned to falling asleep. If you awake up during sleep, there are several ways to soothe yourself back to sleep. Listening to music, watching TV or completing a task outside of bed have shown to be effective methods to put someone back to sleep. It may seem counterintuitive, but lying in bed sometimes is less effective. Enjoying a hot beverage without caffeine, such as an herbal tea, may also help put you back to sleep.

Get exercise

Exercise is a natural remedy to insomnia and difficultly sleeping. It can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep by strengthening the circadian rhythms. Exercise will give you more energy during the day. This is important, especially if rheumatoid arthritis makes you get less than optimal sleep. During exercise, your body temperature will increase. When the body temperature cools, it will make you sleepy. For exercise to help with sleep, you should get at least thirty minutes a day. Exercise also helps limit obesity, which increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, exercise might be more complicated than for most people. Be sure to stretch after each session. Using stretches that target different parts of the body is recommended. This is true because you likely used several parts of the body while exercising. Stretching can decrease any stiffness you may feel. It may also help to have pain medication handy after exercise.

Avoid sleep deterrents

For most people, there are several deterrents to a good night’s sleep. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, sleep is already more challenging than it is for more people. So, it is important that you not add any elements that could affect your sleep. Drinking substances that keep or up or impact how you feel are bad for sleep. This includes caffeine or alcohol. Healthy eating can allow you to maintain or lose weight. Being overweight put extra pressure on your joints, tendons, and other body parts affected by rheumatoid arthritis. The extra pressure can result in pain, which can keep you awake at night. Timing of meals impacts the digestive patterns. Eating right before bed makes digesting the food more difficult. This should be avoided to maximize your sleep. Keeping distractions from light and noise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid naps if you can help it. They disturb your sleep cycle and make cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

The bottom line

Sleep is important to functioning at full capacity. Disrupting sleep may increase the amount of pain you feel. Therefore, setting yourself up for a restful sleep is very crucial to minimizing your pain. Position yourself comfortably. Work with your doctor to coordinate pain management. Get exercise and control your mental health. Set a sleep schedule and avoid distractions. These things will help your sleep and therefore improve your rheumatoid arthritis.