As if it’s not enough that your arthritis bothers you throughout the day, pain and stiffness can also interrupt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Joint stiffness and discomfort from osteoarthritis can make it difficult to sleep at night.
See What Is Osteoarthritis?
This is bad news, because poor sleep can cause pain to be worse—this creates a damaging cycle of pain and poor sleep.
If pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis are keeping you from falling asleep or staying asleep, try following these 9 tips:
- Use heat therapy before bed. Ease a painful joint by using a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes before bed. Or take a soothing bath for the same effect—just give yourself time to cool down afterward, because it’s hard to get to sleep if you’re overheated.
- Explore medication solutions. Insomnia and sleep problems may be the result of a medication you are taking to treat arthritis or another condition. Talk with your doctor about switching medications or adjusting the timing of when you take them.
- Take a nighttime pain reliever. There are several formulations of over-the-counter pain relievers specifically intended for use in at night to both relieve pain and help you sleep better.
- Consider your mattress. A good mattress can make a big difference in your level of comfort and support as you sleep. For those with arthritis, your mattress should be supportive but not too hard. If you can’t invest in a new mattress right now, consider adding a mattress topper.
- Use pillows strategically. Where and what type of pillows you use at night is important. If you have neck (cervical) arthritis, use a standard pillow that’s firm but not too high. For hip or knee arthritis, you may benefit from a wedge pillow next to you or a small pillow between your knees.
- Rule out sleep apnea. Those who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for both osteoarthritis and a sleep condition called sleep apnea, which causes patients to stop breathing and wake up abruptly several times a night. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about undergoing a sleep study.
- Exercise and stretch. Your joints are meant to move—the more you keep them immobile, the stiffer and more painful they’ll become. Stay as active as you can and do stretches intended to maintain strength and range of motion in your arthritis-affected joint.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Follow habits that promote good sleep, such as:
See Knee Stretches
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Establishing a night routine to prepare your mind and body for sleep
- Banning phones, TVs, and other electronics from the bedroom
- Avoiding large meals and caffeine before bed
Remember: arthritis, chronic pain, and sleep problems are all treatable. If you’re struggling with poor sleep because of arthritis pain, make an appointment to see your doctor and explore solutions.