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How to Cope with Insomnia and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted On August 11, 2014
August 11, 2014

When you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, there is nothing worse than waking up with swollen and painful joints. Add to the mix: It takes you about 10 minutes to get up out of bed and moving. Unless of course, you have been battling with the blanket and tossing your head from side to side in an effort to get some restful and restorative sleep. The day after a miserable night of sleep seems to ratchet up the fatigue that so many with rheumatoid arthritis often face. So the question you keep asking yourself: Is there any way to cope with insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis?

The Connection between Insomnia and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Try as we might, it is ever so difficult to get the recommended hours of sleep we need. But alas, we often fail to achieve 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted and sound sleep. Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. Current statistics from the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research estimate that 30 to 40 percent of adults in the United States have insomnia each and every year with roughly 10 to 15 percent describing it as a chronic problem.

Granted, lack of sleep can make us:

  • Moody and grumpy
  • Impair our judgment and decrease concentration
  • Decrease reflexes

When left unaddressed and untreated, lack of sleep can become life-threatening. Sleep deprivation puts a person at an increased risk for high blood pressure , type 2 diabetes , heart disease  and obesity . But then, sleep deprivation can be most worrisome and detrimental when there is also a chronic medical condition present such as rheumatoid arthritis or RA. This disease compromises the immune system and sufferers can experience flare ups of their symptoms without warning such as painful and swollen joints, fatigue and stiffness.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an optimally running immune system depends on sleep to keep in tip-top shape. And a recently published study confirms this theory. Researchers discovered that sleep deprivation lowered immunity due to an inflammatory response. And so it is easy to understand why insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis are connected.

What Can You Do to Help When You Have RA?

If you suffer from insomnia and RA and would like to get back some control of your health, try one or all of the following tips to get a better night of sleep:

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages at least 3 hours before bed time. Changing your diet can help as well.
  • Create a bed haven, free of distractions, especially electronic gadgets.
  • Take naps when possible during the day to allow your body to rest and recharge.
  • Establish a relaxation routine, where you start getting in the mood to go to sleep. Also helpful is to keep to a set sleep schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day, no matter if it is the weekend or during the week.
  • Moderate exercise that can relax your mind and muscles can prove beneficial, such as yoga and tai chi, that don’t place additional impact on your joints. An added bonus is often a reduction in pain.


If these tips don’t help and insomnia becomes a more chronic problem, seek help before more issues develop.

If you have trouble sleeping or think you have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537  to schedule a free consultation.


About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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