03/05/2014 12:22 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Waking Up With Chronic Pain: Five Tips for Better Sleep

For many Canadians, getting a good night's rest can be a challenge. Whether it is stress at work, a spouse who tends to toss and turn or a pet who loves to cuddle a little too much, there are lots of reasons why your sleep might be disrupted. But if you're waking up in the morning feeling more tired than you did when you went to bed, it might be time to consider whether your sleep loss could be tied to something more serious.

Painful conditions -- anything from a headache to back pain to arthritis -- can have a serious impact on your quality of sleep. People living with chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for example, a condition which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints1, report sleep patterns are often irregular and say they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of painful joints2. While the condition can affect anyone at any age, it most often appears between the ages of 25 and 503.

So how do you know if you might be at risk? Canadians can learn to recognize the three most important signs of RA with 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 these symptoms sound familiar, start by speaking to your doctor to find out if you might be at risk for RA, and how to manage the condition effectively. The good news is there are many treatments available and early diagnosis and treatment can help to actually slow disease progression and significantly reduce joint damage4. To learn more, visit

There are also a number of other strategies that can be used to get a good night's rest, if you live with RA or any other chronic condition.

  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, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any issues that may be impacting your ability to get proper rest. They can help make sure any conditions you have are being treated well and offer tips or referrals to specialists who can help you get the sleep you need to wake up well.

References What is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Last accessed September 19, 2013.

2Power, J. D., Perruccio, A. V. and Badley, E. M. (2005), Pain as a mediator of sleep problems in arthritis and other chronic conditions. Arthritis & Rheumatism; 53: 911-919. Available online:

3The Arthritis Society. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Last accessed November 26, 2013.



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