Did you know you’re at greater risk of experiencing sleep issues if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis?
According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. The main symptoms tend to be joint pain and stiffness, which usually worsen with age. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are the two main types of arthritis. RA affects the lining of your joints, which causes painful swelling and can eventually result in bone erosion or joint deformities. If you have arthritis or another autoimmune disease, it is vital to pay attention to any sleep issues you may be experiencing. Those who suffer from RA are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
There are several explanations for why those with RA have a higher risk of developing OSA. Structural abnormalities of the head, neck, and spine could be one of the main reasons. Creakyjoints.org writes that people with RA can have structural abnormalities such as an underdeveloped lower jaw or narrowing spaces between cervical vertebrae that can cause compression on the brain stem, affecting OSA severity. They mention a study that found people with RA and Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) abnormalities tend to have more severe instances of OSA.
Obesity is another common connection between arthritis and OSA. The most common causes of OSA are excess weight and obesity. Arthritis.org discusses how overweightedness can worsen RA symptoms and make certain arthritis medications less effective. Surplus fat tissue releases elevated levels of cytokines, which are proteins that can cause inflammation throughout your body. Joint tissue in RA produces these same cytokines. The elevated levels of cytokines from both sources show that being overweight could lead to or exacerbate many different health issues, such as OSA and RA.
Sleep Better with Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are many different sleep problems that people with RA can suffer from, such as waking up throughout the night and not feeling well-rested when waking up in the morning. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2019 found that sleep loss makes specific pain centers in the brain more active and reactive than they would be after a good night’s sleep. In Everyday Health, Christopher R. Morris, MD, a rheumatologist in Kingsport, Tennesse, says that if a person who struggles with RA does not get a good night’s sleep, “the muscles cannot fully relax. If they are fatigued, they hurt. If they hurt, they get fatigued, and they hurt more.”
It is a vicious cycle between poor sleep and RA. Below are some tips to help break the cycle:
- Take a hot shower or bath before getting ready for bed. The heat will help your muscles and joints relax and calm down.
- If you find your joints are swollen at the end of the day, apply some ice to help soothe them and lessen the inflammation.
- Add meditation to your nighttime routine. Try some Yoga-Nidra to quiet your body and mind and help get them into sleep mode.
- Produce a relaxing sleep environment. Consider a memory foam pillow or mattress to help relieve pressure on your joints throughout the night. If you also suffer from OSA, consider trying a memory foam CPAP pillow.
- Elevate your legs when lying in bed to sleep. The elevation can help circulation and alleviate some pressure on your joints while sleeping.
Get In Control of Your Health
If you are affected by RA and OSA, you can take steps to improve your sleep. Discuss the medications you are taking with your healthcare provider to ensure they are not altering your sleep. Work to create a soothing bedtime routine to help you get the quality rest your body needs. The more you sleep, the more your body can heal.
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