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Sleep and rheumatoid arthritis

You may experience severe tiredness (fatigue) and suffer disturbed sleep. Lack of restful sleep can make it all the more difficult to cope with the pain of arthritis. Try the following tips:

  • Painkillers or a warm bath can help ease pain or stiffness before going to bed.
  • Check that your bed is supportive and comfortable, and if your neck and shoulders are stiff or painful try experimenting with different pillows.
  • Try to establish a relaxing bedtime routine – avoid eating, drinking tea, coffee or alcohol, and smoking close to bedtime.
  • Regular exercise should help you to sleep but don’t exercise within three hours of going to bed.

You can discuss your sleep problems with your doctor or nurse specialist. Although doctors are reluctant to prescribe sleeping tablets for long-term use, they can be useful for short spells when a lack of sleep is a serious problem.

If you’re stiff when you wake up, try these exercises while lying in bed:

  1. Bend one leg at the knee. Hold your other leg straight and lift your foot just off the bed. Hold for a slow count of five then lower. Repeat five times with each leg.
  2. Lie on your back. Pull each knee to your chest in turn, keeping your other leg straight.
  3. If you’re able to, lie on your back, hands behind your head (or by your side if your shoulders are painful). Bend your knees and, keeping your feet on the floor, roll your knees slowly to one side. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this three times for each side.

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