01/21/2014 05:10 EST | Updated 03/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Five Tips for Better Sleep with Chronic Pain

Sleep SOS: Five Tips for Better Sleep with Chronic Pain

Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night, repeatedly hitting snooze in the mornings and yawning at your desk during the day? Busy schedules, stress at work and snoring spouses can all make getting a good night's rest a challenge. However, if you're finding that you're waking up in the morning feeling more tired than when you went to bed, it might be time to consider whether your sleep loss could be tied to something more serious.

Painful conditions, including headaches, back pain or arthritis, can have a serious impact on your quality of sleep. For those between the ages of 25 and 50, one common culprit related to disrupted sleep is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. People living with RA report sleep patterns are often irregular and say they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of painful joints.

There is an easy way to recognize the common and important signs of RA to find out if you might be at risk using the acronym, SOS:

• S: Symmetrical pain that occurs in a pattern on both sides of the body.

• O: On and off pain that fluctuates in intensity and frequency throughout the day.

• S: Stiffness and pain in the morning that lasts longer than 30 to 60 minutes.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing these symptoms, start by speaking to your doctor to find out if you might be at risk for RA, and how to manage the condition effectively. You can use this test to evaluate your RA symptoms. The good news is that there are several treatment options available and early diagnosis and treatment can help to actually slow disease progression and reduce joint damage. To learn more about RA and its symptoms, visit

There are also a number of other simple tips you can follow to start enjoying the full health benefits of a restful night's sleep.

1. Get active. Regular stretching and endurance exercises will help you feel pleasantly tired and relaxed at the end of the day.

2. Practice good sleep hygiene. Establish a regular routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

3. Set the right sleep environment. Invest in a mattress that provides firm yet comfortable support. Ask yourself if the room is too light or too dark, too noisy or too quiet? What about room temperature?

4. Find rest through relaxation. Take a warm bath or shower to loosen tense muscles and relieve pain. Relaxation or distraction techniques can also help to manage pain that wakes you up during the night.

5. Consider your treatment. If you're still waking during the night, ask your doctor to adjust your medication schedule so that your pain reliever medicine takes effect before going to bed.

Sleep is essential for good health, whether you live with a chronic condition or not. Always talk to your doctor about any issues that may be impacting your ability to get proper rest. They can help to ensure that your conditions are being managed well, and offer tips or referrals to specialists who can help you get the sleep you need to wake up well.


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