Sleep is practically a superpower. It gives you energy, makes your brain work better, helps your body heal and goes a long way to keeping your mood out of the cranky-anxious-frazzled category. And for people living with arthritis, sleep in particular affects quality of life. “Poor, non-restorative sleep can cause an increase in pain,” explains Ilene Cohen-Ackerman, an occupational therapist with the Arthritis Society.
There are steps you can take to set yourself up for sleep success. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Following a bedtime routine sends a signal to your body that it’s time for zzzz’s. Help your brain and body settle down with a warm bath, reading, listening to music or doing a crossword puzzle. Checking your phone or tablet, using your computer or watching TV all stimulate the brain, so unplug at least an hour before bed.
Stick to a schedule
It’s tempting to catch up on sleep on a day off, but getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time every day really does help your body know when to be awake or asleep.
When it comes to bedrooms, think dark and quiet. Invest in some blackout curtains to shut out streetlights and sunrise. If noise bothers you, try a white noise machine or earplugs. A firm mattress usually offers comfortable support. Choose sheets, pillows and sleepwear that just feel good. “A pillow that provides proper neck support and alignment is important, and it’s a very individual choice,” says Cohen-Ackerman. She advises trying out the pillow to see if the size, thickness, firmness and shape is right for you.
Reconsider the nap
A regular daytime nap can derail a good night’s sleep for some people. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try a daytime rest rather than a nap to see if it makes a difference.
A healthy diet contributes to good overall health, including good sleep. Remember that going to sleep with a stomach that’s too full or too empty is not a great idea though.
Curb the vices
Caffeine can interrupt sleep, so enjoy your coffee or tea in the morning only. Alcohol can lead to poor sleep quality too so don’t go overboard. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have more trouble getting to sleep and wake up more often, so look into reducing or quitting nicotine.
Regular workouts: Awesome. Exercise helps you feel just the right amount of relaxation and tiredness at the end of the day. It’s best not to work out a few hours before bedtime though.
Keep a sleep diary
Tracking your sleep length and quality and what else is going on in your life can help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. You can download a simple chart here.
Check your meds
Talk to your doctor about your sleep situation, to see if adjusting or changing medications can help.
If you’re awake more than 10 minutes…
Get out of bed (really). Doing something relaxing in another room until you feel sleepy is helpful, so listen to soft music, read a favourite book, write in a journal or jot down the thoughts that are keeping you up.