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Is Arthritis Causing You to Lose ZZZ’s?

Sleep Deprivation and Arthritis

Have you been lying awake at night staring at the ceiling? Do you wake up feeling fatigued instead of refreshed? According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 44% of us are encountering difficulty in our sleep on a nightly basis. According to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, more arthritis sufferers seek medical attention for their sleep deprivation than for the pain associated with the disease. Interestingly though, those same people do not associate the sleep deprivation with their arthritis diagnosis. They tend to believe that it is an unrelated occurrence. This is a misconception that many of us dealing with arthritis should be aware of. Surveys have shown that when arthritis sufferers’ are asked to list their arthritis symptoms, they very rarely list their sleep related issues. However, when they are asked if they have any problems falling asleep, or staying asleep, they admit that they are experiencing difficulties. According to this study, doctors are not asking their arthritis patients if they are experiencing a lack in sleep and patients are not disclosing the information either. The patients finally go to the doctor after they have been deprived of sleep, to find that it is in someway related to their arthritis treatment plans. Some signs of sleep deprivation include:

  • Feeling tired or fatigued upon awakening.
  • Feeling sluggish throughout the day.
  • Experiencing elevated pain levels.
  • Weight gain (when you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, your metabolism can slow down.)
  • Irritability.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Feeling unable to carry out you normal daily activities.

Many arthritis sufferers believe that arthritis pain and discomfort is to blame for their restless nights. This may be true in some cases, but the lack of sleep may be why your pain level has become worse. Two of the most common forms of sleeping disorders that arthritis sufferers experience are a “lack of sleep” and “disrupted sleep”. “Lack of Sleep” is pretty much what it sounds like. You may feel tired but as soon as you lay in bed you feel revitalized. You may be exhausted but you can not doze off. “Disrupted Sleep” occurs when normal sleep cycles are disrupted. The mind and body do not fall into a much needed deep sleep cycle, which prohibits you from experiencing a “restorative sleep.” Most of us have lost some shut-eye over family issues, work problems, or daily stress but a constant period without proper sleep can lead to damaging health problems, such as heart disease, hypertension, and depression. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are having any trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, as “95% of people suffering from a sleep disorder remain undiagnosed”. There may be a reason why you are counting sheep at night that will require medical attention. Medication interference is common among individuals affected by arthritis. Medications react differently in people, it may be intended to act as a pain reducer but in reality it intensifies your pain or causes you to be wired, so it is important to talk to your doctor if any medications are causing adverse side effects (even if you think they are minimal or unrelated).

There are some things you can do to try to improve your sleep. Talk to your doctor about these tips, as well as any other suggestions he may have.

  • Limit your caffeine intake, especially after 3:00pm.
  • Try to avoid taking naps until you have accomplished a regular sleep pattern.
  • Try to wake up at the same time each morning, and go to bed at the same time each night. A regular schedule should help your body’s internal alarm clock.
  • Do not watch TV or read in the bedroom. You can use a quiet fan or air purifier to add a gentle hum in the room. Noises that are too loud or too quite can disrupt sleep.
  • Clear the room of clutter. Distractions can cause your mind to wander.
  • Do not go to bed overly full or on an empty stomach. Have a small snack after dinner.
  • Limit alcohol and cigarettes. They both can cause disrupted sleep.
  • Wear comfortable bed clothes.
  • Keep a regular exercise program.
  • Keep the AC at a cooler temperature at night then it is during the day. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 75 degrees is an ideal setting for undisturbed sleep.
  • If a street light shines directly in your window or sunlight shines in bright and early, cover the windows with drapes or shades that block the rays.
  • Eat sensibly and drink plenty of water throughout the day.