Rheumatoid arthritis and sleep

Arthritis, Healthy Aging, Healthy Living, Rheumatoid Arthritis
on June 7, 2011

Anyone with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) knows that the disease is exhausting and draining, both physically and mentally. While the immune system never rests in working to protect your body, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it is also damaging it. Sleep will undo and lessen that damage. Understanding the dynamic of rheumatoid arthritis and sleep is key in maximizing your wellness potential.

Sleep can be a battle. It’s a dichotomy to be sure, but if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you know you need your sleep but it may be particularly tough to get it. Swollen and sore joints, a lumpy old mattress and a snoring partner all work against you as you try to zone out and get those precious z’s.

Get more sleep. Aim for 10 hours or more of sleep a night and even a nap during the day if possible. This may sound excessive in a time-crunched world where the average person barely gets seven hours of sleep nightly — but it is important to your health. Your body repairs itself during sleep. If you are living with rheumatoid arthritis, there is plenty of repair work to be done. In fact, some studies suggest sleep disturbance or lack of quality sleep can be directly related to disease activity.

Improve the quality of your sleep. Prop painful areas up with soft, conforming pillows. It may feel silly to sleep surrounded by down, but any extra comfort you can get is well worth it. Earplugs are a must if your partner snores like a freight train. Buy soft, foam earplugs at your local home improvement store. They are very effective and worth the extra bedtime step. Consider a new mattress. If you have an old mattress or an uncomfortable one, it is a good investment in your health and well-being to upgrade. Remember to test mattresses well before you buy. Dr. Steven Y. Park, author of the book “Sleep Interrupted,” feels that you can also improve your sleep quality and time by keeping your bedroom at a slightly cooler temperature.

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis and sleep, you must protect your precious down time. A Johns Hopkins study found that most people with rheumatoid arthritis have poor sleep quality and don’t sleep long enough each night. Lack of sleep in anyone can lead to depression, pain and weight gain. In someone with rheumatoid arthritis, these side effects are especially serious.