My Journey With RA, Insomnia, and a Bedtime Story Podcast
Last updated: October 2023
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis over 19 years ago. Since my diagnosis, my ability to get a sound sleep has been greatly impaired. I have trouble falling asleep, and most nights I wake up from chronic disease-related pain. When I do sleep, I often wake up feeling unrefreshed, and with a considerable amount of fatigue.
Seeing a sleep neurologist
Many years ago, I was referred to a neurologist whose specialty is in issues relating to sleep. I was diagnosed with insomnia, which my doctor explained was when someone has persistent problems staying and falling asleep. Through the years, my sleep neurologist has educated me on the importance of proper sleep hygiene.
Personal sleep hygiene tips I currently use include:
- Making sure my sleep space is relaxing and a comfortable temperature
- Using room-darkening (blackout) curtains
- Avoiding large meals prior to bedtime
- Stopping my screen time for all electronic devices an hour before my bedtime
- Wearing a sleep mask every night
- Drinking a nice cup of caffeine-free lavender tea about an hour before bedtime
- Taking a magnesium supplement, as suggested by my doctor
- Taking prescribed medication to aid in sleep
- Using a bedtime story app nightly
Feeling like a 'sleep failure'
It’s a very well-known fact that sleep allows our bodies time to repair themselves. For so many years, I felt like a "sleep failure." I was doing everything right and still not getting great sleep results.
About 6 months ago, I was talking to a mental health professional about — honestly — the shame I was feeling about not being able to sleep. Feeling like there was something I wasn’t doing right. It felt like I was holding myself personally responsible for giving my body the much-needed time to sleep and repair itself.
Trying a bedtime story podcast app
My therapist, in that conversation, asked how I felt about using a bedtime story app. I had honestly tried literally everything else to try to promote healthy sleep patterns, so I started researching adult bedtime stories. I trialed a few different apps and podcast apps out there. Depending on the app you use, the adult bedtime stories can range from 15 minutes to over 45 minutes.
I learned that the purpose of listening to the bedtime stories is to help focus your thoughts and allow your body to begin to calm — all helping our brain to transition into the beginning of the sleep cycle. Honestly, listening to the adult bedtime stories for the last 6 months has had a very meditative effect on me.
My journey with using bedtime stories
After trialing several different apps and podcast apps, the "Nothing Much Happens... Bedtime Stories" podcast (no-cost version) worked best for me. The stories are voiced by a woman with a very calm and soothing voice. Listening to her reminds me of when I was little and my mom would read to me at bedtime.
I've personally found that my ability to fall asleep has improved when listening to the bedtime stories. Waking up from pain does still occur. However, I get out of bed and try to do something to help relieve the pain. When I lay back down, I will listen to another bedtime story to try to help me fall back asleep. On my high pain days, I do notice that I have to listen to the story more than once to fall asleep.
My happy sleep ending
Listening to adult bedtime stories has not been a cure. It does not provide a fairytale ending to my sleep-related rheumatoid arthritis issues. However, I do experience a happy ending some nights. When listening to the bedtime stories, I have experienced more nights of getting a little more sleep than normal. I will take any number of minutes my body can sleep and repair itself. Plus, anything I can do that helps me to feel calmer and more relaxed is worth it.
I always like to share with the community my journey with medications, alternative therapies, and different technologies that I have in my RA tool box. I am curious if anyone in our community has used bedtime story apps or podcasts to help you sleep at night? If you have used these, has it been helpful for you?
Have you struggled to afford your RA medications?