People with rheumatoid arthritis may find that pain or discomfort prevents them from falling asleep. However, there are some things people can try that may help with insomnia.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects more than 1.3 million Americans. Pain, discomfort, and the side effects of medication can make it harder for a person with RA to fall asleep or stay asleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults over 18 require a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per day. Regularly getting less than this can have an impact on a person’s health.

Lack of sleep can worsen RA symptoms and lead to a flare-up of the disease. Fatigue can make the pain more difficult to manage.

Exercise and stretching can help relieve RA pain, leading to better sleepShare on Pinterest
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RA can cause pain, which may cause stress or worry and prevent a person from falling asleep. Some people may find that their symptoms cause them to wake from sleep.

Some medications’ side effects, such as prednisone and hydroxychloroquine, may also cause sleeplessness. It is a good idea to take these drugs earlier in the day to reduce these potential effects.

The following tips for preventing or reducing insomnia involve making lifestyle changes rather than taking medication.

Exercise

Gentle exercise is a meaningful way to reduce or improve RA symptoms. Exercise can also help a person fall asleep and improve their mood and well-being.

The CDC recommends that a person does 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week. However, people with RA should start slowly and build up the amount of activity they do according to their ability. It is better to do a small amount of exercise than nothing at all.

Walking, swimming, cycling, and stretching are all examples of exercises that will not put too much strain on a person’s joints or body.

Exercise can also help keep a person’s joints flexible, which should improve the range of motion they have in their joints. People should avoid activities that put too much pressure on their joints, for example, twisting or jumping.

RA can also cause disability in the long term, and exercise can help prevent or delay this.

Reduce or avoid caffeine

Caffeine can prevent people from falling asleep.

People with RA should reduce or avoid drinking caffeine in the hours preceding their bedtime if it affects their sleep.

It is possible to replace coffee or tea with decaffeinated versions or herbal teas. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine, such as soda, energy drinks, and green tea.

Avoid alcohol

Drinking alcohol before bedtime can prevent a person from falling asleep easily. It may also mean a person wakes from sleep or does not sleep as deeply.

Drinking alcohol alongside some RA medications could also pose a health risk.

Try not to nap

Some RA medication can cause drowsiness and napping or falling asleep throughout the day can make sleeping more difficult at bedtime.

People should try to avoid napping for this reason. Getting fresh air or doing stretching exercises can help a person feel less drowsy and avoid napping.

Relax

Living with RA can be stressful, and taking time to relax, particularly before trying to fall asleep, can help.

Try creating a bedtime routine that is the same daily. People may choose to read a book, light a candle, or play some quiet music.

Sometimes, when a person is trying to get to sleep, worries or concerns often intrude on their minds. Keeping a notepad or dictaphone by the bed to record these concerns can help keep them out of mind.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene means adopting good habits for better sleep, including:

  • going to bed and getting up at the same time every day
  • making the bedroom a quiet, relaxing space
  • keeping the temperature cool in the bedroom
  • using blackout blinds to ensure the bedroom is dark enough for sleep
  • switching off electronic devices 30 minutes before getting into bed

Good sleep hygiene can help the body recognize when it is time for sleep. A relaxed person with no distractions should be able to fall asleep faster.

Meditate

Research on mindfulness meditation suggests that it can help treat insomnia.

Taking time to do a meditation exercise, such as focusing on breathing, can help calm the mind and relax the body. A white noise machine or meditation app can help with sleep and meditation.

Meditating can make it easier to fall asleep or help a person go back to sleep if they wake from sleep.

Not overeating before bed

Going to sleep with a too-full stomach can prevent a person from falling asleep.

Try to eat at least a couple of hours before going to bed. Any snacks before trying to fall asleep should be light.

According to an article in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, people with RA, who also have moderate to severe sleep problems, tend to experience pain more intensely. This, in turn, can cause more difficulty sleeping. It could be possible that lack of sleep affects the way that the brain interprets pain.

Sleep is essential to a person’s well-being. For people with RA, sleep is particularly crucial for lessening symptoms and helping them cope with their pain or discomfort.