If joint pain is keeping you up in the wee hours of the morning, tell your doctor so that she can determine if your arthritis meds are properly managing your symptoms. While your doctor may prescribe stronger pain meds, such as opioids, for short-term use, they come with many downsides and can leave you feeling sleepy the next day. For some people with chronic pain, low-dose antidepressants can help them sleep better by interrupting the pain cycle. You may have to try several medications before you find one that works for you.
Stress and arthritis are commonly linked, and stress can also contribute to poor sleep. Alleviating thoughts or actions that cause stress can help you manage your disease and reduce pain. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive relaxation and guided imagery can help manage stress and can be easily done at bedtime.
Although it’s sometimes dismissed as too simple, it’s a good idea to create good sleep habits that you practice whether you are feeling pain or not – known as sleep hygiene. These actions can be an important first step in warding off or overcoming insomnia.
The goal is to eliminate any stimulants that may be keeping you up, and to train your mind to associate your bedroom with sleep – successful sleep, says Andrew Jamieson, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Good sleep practices include the following:
- Eliminate caffeine.
- Avoid naps.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Don’t eat a large meal near bedtime.
- Exercise. While some experts used to advise not exercising at night, at least one study shows nighttime exercise doesn’t necessarily keep you up. Experiment with times to see what works for you.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex – no TV, piles of laundry to sort or even books.
- If you can’t sleep, get up after 20 minutes. Go into another room and read or listen to music until you’re sleepy. Don’t use bright lights or watch TV.
You may consider keeping a sleep journal, which records your sleep/wake patterns, can help your doctor determine which of your nighttime habits might worsen sleep. Chances are good that making modifications to your lifestyle will help you get a good night’s sleep. Most experts say sleep medications should be used only as a last resort, or only short term, to provide relief while you work on implementing lifestyle changes.
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