Sleep & Painsomnia

By Rebecca Gillett, MS OTR/L – Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast Co-Host 

Sleep and pain. These two words don’t play well together when you live with arthritis or any type of chronic illness that involves living with daily pain. Those of you who have joint pain know what I’m talking about when I say “painsomnia.” That’s what I like to call it. You’re exhausted, fatigued and in pain. All you want and need is some good quality sleep. Yet, pain comes to haunt you just as you settle in to attempt a good night’s sleep, or you fall asleep fast due to sheer exhaustion and fatigue, only to be awakened by pain. Sound all too familiar?

I’m experiencing some serious painsomnia right now. I recently added another joint surgery to my long list, and this time it’s my right shoulder. I’m a side-sleeper, and of course my right side is my favorite side to sleep on. So, as you can imagine, I’m not sleeping well. Learning a new sleep position takes time to get used to, but I need some quality sleep now! I can’t get comfortable, even with six pillows for support. I can only get a good night’s sleep if I take medication to help me sleep. I’ve struggled with sleep for years and have tried many different strategies to achieve just the right amount to keep me functioning. It’s not easy. It changes from day to day. But for the most part, I have figured out what tools I need in my toolbox to help me get enough sleep. It’s taken a lot of time, help from others and good communication to get here. I know you can get there, too.

When we can’t get enough of the recommended amount of sleep, our pain can worsen. It’s a vicious cycle: no sleep, more pain, and more pain, no sleep.

If you’re reading this and nodding your head, then please, do yourself a favor: Make sleep a priority now. There really are strategies you can employ to help you get the sleep you need and want. If you haven’t talked to your doctor about your sleep issues, put it on the top of your list for your next appointment. If you don’t communicate your sleep issues with your health care providers and your loved ones, they won’t know how much you struggle.

There could be underlying issues affecting your sleep aside from your joint pain. A sleep study may help determine if there are any medical issues affecting your ability to sleep. But your doctor can’t suggest a sleep study if you aren’t raising the issue. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist can help with adjusting your sleep position based on the joint pain and issues you may be having. There are a lot of health care providers, resources and tools to help you. But it starts with you asking for help.

Now that you’ve decided you’re going to make sleep a priority to combat some of your pain, the next step is to tune in to the latest episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast. You can get some sound sleep strategies from sleep expert Rebecca Robbins as she helps us to break down some of the issues around sleep and provides solutions to help set you up for sleep success.

We know sleep is important to our overall health and well-being, but how can you stop the pain long enough to get some quality shut-eye? This conversation could not have come at a better time. With the pandemic and personal stress going on in our lives, both my co-host Julie Eller and I find ourselves struggling with sleep lately and learned a lot from this conversation. We hope you will, too, and can get some much-needed quality sleep.

Listen now to the Sleep & Painsomnia episode!

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