Hi everyone, I hope you are well!
Today we are going to take a look at the next tool in our arthritis toolkit.
This is another important tool in our fight and statistics show that it is a problem for the majority of arthritis sufferers.
Hopefully, you find the information here useful and enjoyable to read, I would hate to think the article causes you to doze off or you find it a tiring read.
Alright, that’s enough of the cheap puns some of you may have guessed it…
S is for Sleep
That’s sleep, not sheep I will come to the sheep shortly.
It has been reported that around 8 out of 10 arthritis sufferers have trouble sleeping on various occasions.
I have too experienced some sleep problems due to my arthritis.
The thing about arthritis is it is exhausting at times, particularly when the pain is at it’s worst.
So the tiredness and fatigue mean that we need to get some sleep, sleeping is when our bodies can try to do some repair work.
Sleeping means that the body can shut the engines down and then have a look round to see what damage has occurred and see if it can do anything to repair it.
When your sleeping your body can produce extra chemicals that are needed to fight pain and inflammation.
Getting good rest can help your brain health as well. When we don’t get enough rest we can experience brain fog and difficulty concentrating.
Not to mention our old enemy STRESS! Not sleeping well means we are going to be stressed, our bodies are going to be inflamed, we will be in pain.
So it’s great that sleep can hold all those benefits but if we can’t get regular quality sleep then we are missing out on them.
People with arthritis report of struggling to get comfy in bed, this could be due to the way they are laying putting pressure on the joint, the mattress may no longer be the right type now you have arthritis or it could be due to simply being in too much pain to sleep.
There are many other reasons as well. When I had trouble sleeping it was a case of my ankle joint would twitch when I was sleeping or just drifting off to sleep.
As this was always my arthritic ankle that it happened to and due to the fact my ankle is stiff and has a limited range of motion, the twitching was startling as it would tend to jolt my ankle joint further than it normally moved.
Or this was what it felt like and it would be extremely painful.
It hasn’t happened for a year and a half, it was occurring most nights and sometimes a few times a night.
I can’t be completely sure what the reason is but I do know that for the few months this happened it tied in with a period when I was off work and had suffered a severe flare up due to over exerting myself at work.
Ways to get some sleep
This may be something that only gets said in England so don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it. I remember it, as most do, from childhood saying to your parents I don’t want to go to bed, why can’t I stay up? I can’t sleep!!
My mother’s answer was always count sheep, what sheep I hear you ask, after all, we didn’t live on a farm where I could wander around performing a sheep inventory until I was tired.
As far as I know, my mother wasn’t taking any form of hallucinogenics that were causing her to see my bedroom packed full of sheep when she was telling me to count them.
Of course, she meant in my head, imagination land, whatever you want to call it. The act of visualising sheep jump over a fence and count them until you fall asleep.
I am aware that telling someone who has arthritis that is affecting their sleep to count sheep is a bit of a slap in the face.
I mention it because there are a variety of arthritis sufferers with a variety of sleep-related problems, maybe your joints are sore in bed or you are worried about something you need to do tomorrow and whether your joints will allow you to, maybe you are just upset and angry you have this disease.
All the above will affect sleep and so in this instance, the counting sheep method can yield some results.
The idea behind counting sheep is that you are detaching yourself from all stresses and worries and focussing on carrying out a very mundane task, enough to put you to sleep.
If you are an adult and don’t fancy counting sheep, you could use an app to put a sleep story on or you could use it to perform a sleep meditation in bed.
Sleep meditations normally involve things like body scans and allowing your body to become heavy, it looks to shifts your focus from one area to another before coaxing you to a place of relaxation.
I have mentioned before about the Calm app and how much I feel it has benefited my sleep and mind. Have a look for it, it’s free to download and has plenty of relaxing attributes.
As we all may know there are regularly recommended solutions for people with sleep problems which consist of;
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine or other stimulants before bed.
- Avoid looking at screens before bed, televisions, laptops, phones.
- Exercise and eat well during the day.
- Avoid eating a large quantity before bed.
These are the common solutions that get thrown out and that’s fine for most people but again we are looking at arthritis pain that is causing sleep disturbance.
So whilst all the above are very intelligent suggestions they won’t be enough for someone in pain even though they can be good things to implement.
One suggestion I like is to keep a diary.
Statistics and data gathering play a key role in coming to educated conclusions. By keeping a diary you may begin to see a pattern develop that can help to identify your sleep problems.
Yes we know it is because of arthritis pain but is there a trigger or triggers. In the diary make a note of;
- What you have eaten that day.
- What exercise or activities you have done i.e. cycling, working.
- What medication you have taken, if any.
- How you have felt that day, i.e. pain level, mental state.
Most people go to bed around a set time and this is good to have routine, just ensure you are not going to bed too late. Many people who go to bed too late can have problems falling asleep.
You could even make a note in the diary of what time you woke up and whether you slept straight through or if you woke in the night with pain.
How often did you wake?
What was the type of pain?
If you make an appointment to see a healthcare professional because of your sleep disturbance this information can be very insightful.
I try to laugh
I am going to contradict an earlier point here.
Sometimes if I have had a crappy day pain-wise which touch wood I haven’t had for a long time, I would look on my phone on YouTube and look for a funny video.
It may be something like a clip from an old television series that always makes me laugh, a funny song or even a dog on roller skates.
I have a good laugh and try to get all those healing chemicals pumping round my body.
I know it isn’t always that simple, it’s like when you got a kick in the crotch at school and were told to walk it off.
That may be good advice but it’s hard to do, you’re doubled over in pain, you feel sick, you’re having a cold sweat and feel like half the person you was before you took that boot.
Anyway, the point is that sleep, good quality sleep, is an important tool in our fightback.
Get plenty of it and if you do not then explore why and what you can do.
There are things out there that can help from camomile tea to herbal remedies, of course, there are drugs out there to help you sleep and I know people use these, just please be aware of any potential side effects before taking them, ASK QUESTIONS!
And as a sidenote drinking till you pass out every night isn’t good either you’re not sleeping you are blacking out and arthritis can be tiring enough without adding an exhausting hangover to that mix.
Find a way to incorporate this tool efficiently and harness its benefits.
My sleep disturbance stopped when I stopped over-exerting my joint and went back to strengthening it and the muscles around it.
Have you had sleep disturbance due to your arthritis?
Have you overcome it and if so how?