Managing Arthritis

10 Things to do before you go to sleep

A person hiding under the sheets

Ideally, the end of your day is something to look forward to: a time to relax, recharge and reconnect.

When you're living with arthritis however, evenings can be challenging if you struggle with increased pain and extra fatigue. Here are some tips for your nighttime routine – so you can have a good night's sleep and a good morning too.

1. Be gentle with exercise

“We build up our sleep drive by being active and by moving, and by being outside during the daytime,” says Anna Nikitina, an Arthritis Society Canada social worker. “But nothing too vigorous at bedtime! Strenuous exercise gives you a boost of energy. Try a moderate walk, a gentle swim or light stretches instead.”

2. Find some quiet time

Evenings can be demanding, with chores and family and social responsibilities. It's important to find some “buffer time” says Nikitina. “Basically, it's a quiet hour or half an hour when you do whatever your body needs, whatever your soul needs, whatever your mind needs at the time. It could be a walk, it could be some hobby, it could be some art or creative activities.”

3. Fine-tune your pain management strategies

“When we have chronic pain, or any acute pain, our adrenaline level is high, and it makes it impossible to relax and let go,” notes Nikitina. Some have dubbed this “painsomnia.” Figure out what pain management strategies are best for you in the early evening and bedtime. Examples include meditation, stretches, self-massage, pain reliever ointments, heat wands and other therapeutic devices. A warm shower or bath is also a common approach. “After a hot shower, when your body is cooling off, there is a 30- to 60-minute window when your body is biochemically the most relaxed. Hot water helps relax stiffness, helps relax your muscles,” she says.

4. Be smart about snacks

A protein snack before bed can help you feel satisfied and comfortable before you go to sleep. Examples include a bowl of yogurt, peanut butter on apple slices, a small handful of mixed nuts or roasted chickpeas, or cottage cheese and fruit.

5. Hydrate...but not too much

If you're not getting enough water to drink during the day, you may be craving it by evening. Rather than gulping it down then (and then having to get up to use the bathroom at night), work on spacing out your sips throughout the day.

6. Curb caffeine

“Caffeine takes between six and eight hours to be processed and eliminated from your body,” says Nikitina. “So, if you go to bed at 11 p.m., your last tea, coffee or cola should be at 3 p.m.” Remember that an herbal hot drink like peppermint tea can be very soothing later in the day.

7. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist

A variety of medications can interfere with sleep — for example, some blood pressure or asthma medications, some antidepressants and specific arthritis drugs, like methotrexate or prednisone — says Nikitina. “Talk to the prescribing physician, and your pharmacist, about timing and dosage.”

8. Think about light

Exposure to natural light, especially in the morning — for example, during an outdoor morning walk or taking a break on a bench — helps regulate your body's natural rhythms so you sleep better at night. On the other hand, artificial light, particularly blue light from electronics like your tablet, TV or smartphone, can trigger wakefulness or cause sleep disruption. Avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bed, or if it can't be helped, try an app or special glasses that filter the blue light.

9. Get ready for sleep success

A cool, dark, quiet room, a supportive mattress and pillows and keeping a sleep diary are all good ideas.

10. Cue sleep!

A routine or pattern at bedtime can help signal your brain and body that it's time to sleep. It doesn't have to be elaborate: A warm shower, comfy pajamas and a soothing, quiet activity like reading may be all you need.

After a good night's sleep, try our tips to beat the morning stiffness, and be set for a fantastic day!