While everyone needs good sleep, for RA Warriors it is even more critical, but often elusive.
“Most nights I don’t even sleep … I just lay there.”
Few people understand the feeling of being sleepy and not being able sleep, but for many people battling rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it can be a regular occurrence. Sometimes it’s the pain that makes it impossible to get good sleep, other nights it’s impossible to pinpoint the reason. Even the best rheumatoid arthritis medication often don’t help. But whatever the root cause, sleep issues are one of the top rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. For many people, not getting a good night sleep is also a flare trigger. So what can you do to get better sleep?
Start with Tracking Your Sleep
While it might feel like every night is a bad night, more likely some nights are worse than others. Before you can determine what is helping you sleep, you need to be able to measure how you are sleeping. Fortunately, there are awesome apps and devices that are making that easier than ever.
Apps that measure and track sleep
Sleep Cycle (iOS) – Sleep Cycle uses the microphone on your smartphone to analyze your sleep. It’s able to use that data to determine the perfect time to wake you up, which they claim helps you feel more rested and relaxed. More importantly, it gives you a measure of your sleep quality, which you can use to determine if things like dinner with the in-laws or certain RA medications affects your sleep.
SleepBot – Available for iOS or Android, SleepBot offers sleep tracking, soothing sounds, smart wake up capabilities, and great charts and graphs to help you find trends in your sleep. It also lets you export all your data so you can bring your sleep journal with you to the doctor.
Gadgets that measure and track sleep
If you really want to get serious about tracking and measuring your sleep, there are some really cool companies making some advanced sleep tracking gadgets…but they will cost you.
Beddit – For $150, you get a thin device that goes under your sheets. Beddit can then measure your sleep quality, heart rate, breathing, and snoring. Best part: Set it and forget it. Nothing to remember at night!
Withings Aura – For $300, you get everything that comes with the Beddit but you also get a color-changing light and speaker. This allows the Aura to create a simulated sunrise for a gradual wake up which they claim “leaves you feeling enegerqzed and refreshed. The best part: It connects to Spotify, which means you can stream your favorite playlists or listen to wake-up programs.
Okay, I am tracking… Now What?
Most of the apps and devices come with recommendation engines, so while you are tracking your sleep, you will be given suggestions on things to try, like changing what you do before you go to sleep. Here are a few other things you can try to see if they help you sleep better
Eye Mask and Ear Plugs – One of the best ways to get a good night sleep and fend off fatigue is to invest in an eye mask and some ear plugs. Light and noise make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. While it might take a little time to get used to, and it might seem like an overly simple solution, eye masks and ear plugs can make a world of a difference.
Don’t lie in bed if you can’t sleep – Thinking about not being able to sleep can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Instead of staying in bed and getting anxious, consider reading a book, listening to music or an audiobook, or watching television. Some people find it helpful to get out of bed to do those activities and return to bed when you are feeling tired again.
Create a sleep schedule and routine – This is a lot easier said than done, but can make a huge difference. The apps and devices above can also make sure you are sticking to it. Try going to bed at the same time everyday and waking up at the same time everyday (yup, even the weekends). Do the same relaxing activity before you go to sleep. Read 30 pages of a book or take a warm bath. This is signal to your body its time to sleep. A warm bath can also go a long way to help the pain.
Talk to your doctor – If nothing is working, make sure to have an open and honest conversation with your rheumatologist. Sleeping aids like melatonin can have a negative impact for people with autoimmune conditions, so its important to work with your rheumatologist to find a treatment plan that is best for you. Having a way to measure and track sleep makes those conversations more valuable.