5 tips to cope with painsomnia

arthritis autoimmune autoimmune disorder chronic pain insomnia joint pain painsomnia rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis rheumatoid disease rheumatoid treatment sleep

grey cat snoozing in some pink blankets.

Rheumatoid pain can make it difficult to fall asleep or result in fragmented sleep or insomnia.

Rheumatoid patients sometimes refer to this as ‘painsomnia’.

Even modest sleep loss can increase the experience of pain. Studies have shown greater activity in pain centers of the brain when sleep is disturbed.

So what can you do to get the best possible night’s sleep?

1. Routine 

Go to bed at the same time every night, helps you to wake up at the same time. Have a relaxing routine an hour before bed, and avoid bright lights and phones.

2. Try not to take long naps

Napping can be a good way to cope with rheumatoid fatigue. But too much napping can backfire.  

Short naps are ok, but long and frequent naps can disrupt your sleep schedule.

 3. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

A quiet, cool, dark room will help you sleep more soundly. Earplugs, eye masks and white noise machines may help. 

Use your bed for sleeping only - keep TVs and phones out of the bedroom.

Some people find specially shaped pillows helpful. You can also prop up sore joints with pillows or towels for extra support, and to stop you rolling into uncomfortable positions.

 4. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol

Coffee, cigarettes and alcohol can all disrupt sleep. Try to avoid them in the afternoon or evening.

Some medications - like prednisone - can also affect sleep quality. Some patients take these medications early in the morning to minimize the impact on sleep. 


5. Talk with your rheumatologist

If pain is waking you up on a regular basis, tell your rheumatologist. 

They may be able to adjust your medications to better manage your pain.

They may also refer you to a pain management clinic or a sleep management clinic.


Source: The Pain of Sleep Loss: A Brain Characterization in Humans. Journal of Neuroscience 20 March 2019; 39 (12) 2291-2300

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