Arthritis: Sleep disturbances trigger painful inflammation – nip it in the bud

Fitness & Health:

As many as 80 percent of people with arthritis have trouble sleeping – whether that’s falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. How can a good night’s sleep reduce painful joints in the morning? Dr Yvonne Lee said: “While pain can certainly contribute to sleep problems, the more we learn about sleep, pain and inflammation, the more we find the relationships are likely to be multi-directional.” Arthritis Foundation cited research where osteoarthritis patients were more likely to experience wider side effects from a lack of sleep, including depression and further disability.

With data suggesting that sleepless nights result in more painful symptoms, sleeping difficulties are feared to progress the disease.

Dr Patricia Parmelee added: “Studies in healthy individuals have found that sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in inflammatory markers measured in the blood.

“It is possible that an acute inflammatory response to sleep deprivation could lead to more long-term problems.”


Since pain, sleep and inflammation are linked, Dr Parmelee suggests treating insomnia to help manage arthritis.

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It’s also advisable to get up out of bed if you’re unable to fall asleep in 10 minutes.

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This is to break the connection between your bed and the feeling of restlessness.

A handful of relaxation techniques may also help a person drift off more easily.

This includes breathing exercises, muscle relation and meditation before going into bed.

It may also be helpful to speak to your GP about sleep difficulties, as they may be able to prescribe medication (if suitable).

How to reduce painful arthritis

It’ll also help you to fall asleep if you’re able to minimise the pain felt with arthritis.

The charity Versus Arthritis explained inflammation “irritates the nerve endings and causes pain” inside of the joints.

Exercise is key to managing painful arthritis symptoms, as it can improve your sleep, says experts.

Moving your body regularly can also help to control your weight, as being overweight puts more strain on the joints.

Furthermore, exercising can improve your ability to carry out daily tasks that may otherwise become more challenging.

To explain, painful joints may cause some people to reduce their level of activity.

This can result in a steady loss of joint mobility, muscle strength, co-ordination and balance – and the pain is likely to persist.

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