Looking back on my very short life, I realized sleep came very easily to me. I never had problems falling asleep or staying so. I’d be in dreamland minutes after hitting my pillow and passed out easily in the car, on a plane, a friend’s couch, the first night in my college dorm; the list goes on! But, just to drive the point home allow me one quick story. My freshman year college roommate (and best friend) found me snoozing in my under bed storage one afternoon. I pulled it out to look for one of my books and must have shut my eyes “for a minute”. My friend said she thought about moving me to the bed but apparently, I looked quite comfy where I was. I have no doubts.
The impact of RA on sleep
Even during stressful times, my sleep hygiene was pretty good. I went to bed at the same time and woke up sort of, maybe, in the general vicinity of the same hour every morning. I never pulled all-nighters (I wasn’t cool enough for those) and only took naps early in the day.
That all went to you-know-where in a handbasket when I began exhibiting symptoms for RA. I remember being so fatigued I was asleep any time I was not in class and I still slept 10 hours a night. I felt lousy. I knew my sleep schedule was messed up and contributed to my symptoms but I couldn’t normalize it.
When I was diagnosed and started the plethora of medications, my sleep schedule took another nosedive because I couldn’t sleep at all! My meds made me all squirrel-y and wired. I couldn’t fathom falling asleep.
Medication and sleep disturbances
I was especially sensitive to the Prednisone and Methotrexate. The Prednisone caused severe insomnia and the Methotrexate made me so fatigued I slept too much during the day which, in turn, wrecked my sleep cycle.
My physician prescribed me sleeping pills, which I gladly took. I was still working as a veterinary technician and worked the early shift. I needed the rest to not only get through my very long day but also do the work properly!
All that being said, my disease activity has been in a good place the last couple of years so I’ve lowered my medication dosages and no longer experience severe side effects.
I still don’t have a completely restful night’s sleep, though. I wake up frequently to move around. I turn over, I curl up into the fetal position, I straighten out, I sleep on my back, I roll over the other way and I try to move all my joints just a bit. I just can’t stay in one position too long because I get quite painful. I have noticed one silver lining to this. I am less stiff and painful in the mornings. I guess my joints are happier because with all sleep disturbances, I’ve kept the body well oiled.
How do you sleep at night? Are there any positions or pillow placements that make your night a little easier? LMK in the comments!
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?