Poor Sleep May Trigger Osteoarthritis Pain, Depression, and Disability

Osteoarthritis is an uninvited guest in people's lives. Even worse, it rarely comes alone—fellow party crashers can include problems like trouble sleeping and depression.

Is poor sleep making your osteoarthritis worse?

Why sleep matters

Researchers reporting in Arthritis Care & Research studied people with knee osteoarthritis who had sleep problems and how that affected their pain, disability, and depression.1

At the beginning of the year-long study period, sleep problems were directly connected with pain and depression, but not disability. By the end of the study, disability was affected by poor sleep too. "Sleep disturbance exacerbated effects of pain on depression, such that depressive symptoms were greatest among those with both significant sleep problems and higher-than-average pain," say the researchers.

The study authors say the relationship needs more research. But they believe the role sleep may play in triggering the other problems is important, because treating the sleep disturbances early could help prevent decline later for people with osteoarthritis.

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Sleep better with these sleep tips

But how do you treat poor sleep? For starters, the National Sleep Foundation recommends these tips in order to follow good "sleep hygiene":

  1. Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning.
  2. Create the right environment. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing setting.
  3. Evict the electronics. Use your bedroom only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as watching TV. Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
  4. Avoid late dinners. Don't eat large meals before bedtime.
  5. Stay active. Exercise improves your mood, energy level, and sleep—but don't exercise hard right before going to bed.

Read more about the connection between sleep problems and chronic pain on Spine-health.com: Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle.

If you're having trouble sleeping, it's also important to talk with your doctor about it. He or she may offer solutions by adjusting your medications or prescribing a sleep study or sleep aid.

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Reference:

  1. "Sleep disturbance in Osteoarthritis: Linkages with pain, disability and depressive symptoms." Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2014 Oct 6. doi: 10.1002/acr.22459. [Epub ahead of print]
Post written by Carrie DeVries