Start with going to bed earlier — and when you go to bed earlier, use that time to sleep! Many of us watch TV, or work on our computer, or try to solve problems or plan when we get in bed.
Those are not good ways to spend our time in bed. Bed is for sleep (and sex, but that's another column).
First step — get in bed earlier, and then relax.
Practice progressive relaxation in which you tense and then release various muscles, moving from your feet to the top of your head. There are some great guided descriptions that you can listen to if you want help learning to do this. Put on music, or ocean sounds, or listen to a soothing story. But no crime shows or worse — hospital dramas or political nonsense.
No TV at all is best.
Raising your core body temperature can also help you fall asleep — so take a hot shower or bath before bed. Taking your pain medication close to bedtime can also help you sleep and stay asleep.
Make your bed a comfortable safe place — if you meditate, this is a good time to practice. If you don't, this is a good time to start!
Staying asleep can also be challenging when your joints hurt.
Put the clock where it is hard to see — worrying that you aren't asleep only makes it worse. Block noise and light and, if that's difficult, invest in earplugs or eyeshades or drapes!
Any exercise — even a gentle walk around the block once or twice will help your body move into rest and stay there.
For some people, a few sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy can help create some habits that lead to better sleep. Ask your doctor for a referral or call a sleep clinic for a practioner who specializes in sleep issues.
If sleep is still eluding you, don't hesitate to ask your doctor for some help. There's nothing wrong with getting some medication to help you sleep — it's that important.
I suggested that to Jane and she found that once she was sleeping almost every night, she had some new energy. Just as significantly, she found her joints were a bit better. There is some evidence that lack of sleep increases inflammatory cytokines, and even a small sleep deficit can have that effect.
So creating a reserve of sleep experiences can help with arthritis pain.
A restorative night's slumber adds more to your life than just rest. It is a key part of zest and resilience — essential elements of living well with arthritis.
As always, I am interested in your experiences. How much are you sleeping and how does that affect you? Please write in and let me know.