Bed and coffee

We all do it every night and it’s critical to our health, but much of what we know about sleep is still a mystery. Whilst the world of sleep science is relatively small, it’s growing exponentially and the more we find out about the importance of sleep, the more people are starting to make a good night’s sleep a priority.

As well as increasing cognition, productivity and emotional resilience, good sleep also has endless health benefits including lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression and diabetes. Crucially, poor sleep lowers immunity and increases inflammation – two major causes of chronic health conditions today.

Sleep disturbances can be caused by several factors, but the most common is pain-related sleep loss. Dubbed ‘painsomnia’, the inability to sleep due to pain is all too common with those suffering from arthritis. The major difficulty appears to be the pain/sleep loss cycle which can occur if this is an ongoing problem.

Whilst feeling discomfort and pain in bed can prevent you from getting your recommended 8 hour’s sleep, the lack of sleep also reduces your pain threshold; meaning the more sleep you lose, the more overall pain you experience.

A major cause of pain for much of the population is often caused by arthritis. Several factors are at play when considering sleep and arthritis. Due to lower levels of cortisol at night, a hormone that controls inflammation, and issues with pooling of inflammatory chemicals in your joints when you lie down for long periods of time, the result is chronic pain and stiffness. Furthermore, because you are not busy with day-to-day tasks whilst you’re in bed, you are more likely to be aware of pain sensations.

Sleep better with your arthritis

Thankfully, there are many tweaks to your bedtime routine and daily lifestyle that can give you a better chance of getting the sleep your body needs to rest and repair.

1) Tweak the temperature
Finding the correct room temperature can be crucial for a good night’s sleep. Research now shows that sleeping in a warm room disrupts your sleep hormone melatonin and can prevent you from getting a restorative night’s kip. Sleep usually begins when our body temperature drops, so a colder room can encourage us to fall asleep faster.

2) Lower your lights
Once the sun goes down, our houses light up; but too many lights can trick our body’s sleep mechanisms and can prevent us from drifting off when we really need to. Using low lighting in your house in the evening, such as lamps or candlelight, and switching off screens and mobile phones give the body the right message that sleep is on its way.

3) Consider natural remedies
Boswellia Essential Oil (also known as Indian frankincense) is a potent supplement, which can help reduce inflammation and pain. It is so potent that it has proved in trials as powerful as common pain medications, without the side effects. A therapeutic-grade oil can be massaged directly into the skin over painful areas. Add to a carrier oil with some lavender essential oil, also known to promote sleep, and rubbed into the affected joint would be a lovely addition to a nighttime routine.

Turmeric has also been researched in dozens of studies, investigating anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects in relation to inflammatory conditions. Some potential effects of turmeric supplements when used with arthritis include; lowering of joint inflammation, reduction in swelling and slowed joint destruction.

4) Play with your pillows
Finding the most comfortable position in bed is essential to satisfying sleep when you are suffering from arthritic joints. Using a thin pillow or a neck roll can help keep your neck straighter if that’s where the pain is felt. Likewise using pillow wedges or tube pillows can help to prop up knees and arms to bring relief to other common joints.

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. Be it physical or mental benefits, ensuring the body is well rested can help us in a variety of ways, even more so for someone suffering from arthritis. Take a look at the quality of your sleep and see if you can find a way to improve it.