The irony of Rheumatoid Arthritis sleep issues
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients need quantity and quality sleep to in order to fight debilitating pain and fatigue. Rest is one of the only things that can enable those living with RA to function in a somewhat normal manner. In my opinion, it is second in importance only to RA disease fighting medicine.
Sleep can also be the only refuge from persistent pain. However, for those with RA, getting enough sleep can be a problem as we discussed yesterday. Rheumatoid arthritis patients frequently complain that restful or adequate sleep is elusive.
Promoting sleep with RA
Priority 1 is falling asleep: Falling asleep with RA may require special preparation. We may need to confront things head on which can interfere with the rest we really need. This way, we do everything in our power to promote sleep.
Tips to confront things which interfere with RA’ers sleep:
- Pursue physical comfort. Deal with pain and discomfort as much as possible ahead of bedtime. This not only includes pain medicine, but also could include heat patches or creams. An example of addressing problems ahead of time might be taking a heartburn preventative if you need it. Look for your ultimate mattress, pillow, and cover as if it’s your Holy Grail.
- Attempt to relax. Release the intense stress of another day living with RA. Things that might help include gentle massage, warm bath, chamomile tea, a brief conversation w/ a loved one, fragrance, music, light or boring reading, and soft loose clothing.
- Watch out for medicine. Some drugs or meds interfere with sleep. These may include various vitamins, cold medications, prednisone, and blood pressure medicines. Check with your pharmacist. Some can take methotrexate at bedtime successfully, but it if bothers you, you can back it up a few hours.
- Be careful about food and drink: Some foods and drinks promote sleep and some interfere. Caffeine is the obvious one, but watch to see what bothers you, such as sugar. A typical safe snack is a banana or a turkey sandwich with milk – full of L-tryptophan and potassium to fight leg cramps. Alcohol and nicotine are usually no-no.
- Take hormones earlier in the day. Many hormones such as estrogen or thyroid supplements can interfere with sleep if taken near bedtime.
- Treat illness. It is not known which aspects of the RA disease process may cause sleep problems, so treating RA adequately may help sleep. Other medical issues may include sleep apnea or endocrine problems which can affect circadian rhythm.
Priority 2: Finishing strong by getting back to sleep
Going back to sleep can be a separate problem. The most important thing is to plan ahead. Set out whatever you may need when you awaken: medicine or pain cream, fresh dry clothes or pillowcase, extra blanket, a drink. Hopefully, you can get back into bed within a few moments without ever turning on the light. (Some of the Resources below include tips about this.)
My personal favorite sleep tips
Okay, a bonus: my personal tips. No footnotes – just what works for me:
- A combination latex-rubber mattress with a thick feather bed on top. Very lightweight feather comforter and duvet which are easier on my fragile fingers.
- A bath with menthol-infused salts.
- Turn the clock away from your face. Don’t look at a clock if you wake up.
- Slow, deep breathing.
- A dim blue LED nightlight.
Finish this post with your own favorite tips. How do you promote good sleep?
Some Really Helpful Sleep Resources:
- 15-part series by a doctor on How Stuff Works.com with lots of general good sleep advice.
- Lists from Healthkey of more meds which may interfere with sleep.
- Dr. Sears’ lists of foods to help sleep.
- WikiHow: Dozens of tips on how to fall asleep.
- 32 mattress buying guides on ConsumerSearch.com
- A serious look at problems with sleep and RA: Rheumatoid Arthritis Sleep Issues (Great reader tips!)
- A humorous look at sleep and RA: Encountering Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Modern Princess and the Pea
- Comparing Risks and Benefits of Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines