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Sleep Disturbances

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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • tckrd
    10 months ago

    I can only sleep for 1.5 to 2 hours at a time. First I start on my right side and hip pain along with wrists, hands and feet pain wake me. Then I get up walk around and lay back down on the other side. Same things happen. I get up and go to my recliner. I do take sleep aids so at least I can fall back to sleep.

  • brcdeer
    10 months ago

    I can certainly relate to the sleep problems. I was used to getting 8 hours about 5 years ago. Then I began sleeping for only 4 and unable to get back to sleep. I tried a prescription but it didn’t phase me.

    Couple of things which when I think about have heard many times. No caffeine except morning coffee. A must. No napping. Have a half a glass of milk (reg, not warm), and a muscle relaxer. For the leg cramps, one of the best things to do is drink pickle juice & it works!! Doesn’t have to be much. Just turn it up & take a swig. I’m back to 8 hours & keep the above regimen going but haven’t had to drink any pickle juice for cramping. It takes awhile to figure out what will work. Best of luck to you!

  • Amy Borel
    10 months ago

    Hi, Monica,
    Fatigue is a big issue for me right now. Even when I’m not flaring, the fatigue causes me to close my eyes in places I never could before! Suddenly I’m able to sleep during car trips or even at my in-laws while visiting with the family.
    Prednisone was very difficult for me because of the insomnia as well.
    I find that taking a nap helps, but I have to be careful because often a “cat nap” will turn into a 3 1/2 hour chunk of my day. I wake up just as heavy feeling as I do in the mornings.

  • Luna-Tick
    10 months ago

    Thank you Monica. I was just like you, sleep anywhere, at anytime and without problems.
    When my RA hit at 25, I’m 54 now, one of the things I had to deal with was pain & aches during the night for years.
    Then I found my blessing – the biological medication, as RoActemra and others the like, are called in my part of the world 🙂
    Began to have a normal sleep pattern. But then I hit menopause and now the poor quality of sleep is back.
    I’m working on getting the stars and the moon aligned and have found a deep satisfaction in the correct breathing in the 5-7-9 method.
    Danish sleep researchers have found out, that you don’t have to get 8 straight hours of sleep. As long as you in 24 hours, sleep for 8 hours. So to sleep 6 hours a night and take an nap during the day is ok. That comforts me 🙂

  • lala80
    10 months ago

    Hey y’all – new to all of this, but this is something that helps me at night. Hot, hot bath – Epsom salts, baking soda and lavender or eucalyptus oil. As hot as I can stand it, for as long as I can stand it. 1/2 cup of Epsom salts – magnesium, good for muscles – and 1/4 cup baking soda, 5-10 drops of oil depending 9n tub size. It really helps me out – has become routine most nights. My problem has been staying asleep! I’ll have muscle spasms so hard they wake me up – usually if I let myself get too tired. Arnica gel helps sometimes.

    I know I’m a rookie at this, but it’s a pretty inexpensive side.

  • Biomom
    10 months ago

    I suffer from sleep disturbances too. I toss and turn, wake frequently and have trouble staying asleep. I dream of the days when I was a sound sleeper.
    I still have chronic fatigue in the day time. It affects my ability to work and be productive. My doctor gave me rheumate to go with the methotrexate and it seems to help a little. Another doctor (not my rheumatologist) told me I should take B12 in liquid form since there is more absorption than the pill. I ordered the liquid online and I am waiting on it. I am also on Remicade and I have extreme fatigue after an infusion.

  • rosidiaz27
    10 months ago

    I find myself sleeping about 3 1/2 hrs @ night just to remain in bed with my eyes open waiting for 7am. This is a daily recurrence. I then wake up make breakfast for family and eat breakfast myself, only to get sleepy right afterwards. I stay awake about another 2-3 hrs and finally give in to sleep. I will then sleep for about another 3hrs only to wake up feeling guilty from not having a productive morning. I really hate this cycle. I have never envied anyone in my life but so far I’m starting to envy my husband. He can go to sleep without any problems and stay asleep without waking up @ night. With that said, on some days when I hurt more than usual, I take baclofen 10mg and 1/2 tab tramadol 25mg. I have found that doing this has helped me get a better sleep, but I don’t make a routine of it. Hope this helps anyone else going through the same thing.

  • MzR3tta
    10 months ago

    Monia, I know exactly how you feel. I thought it was just me. It’s so difficult to get a good night sleep. I sleep may 2-3 hrs and then I wake up. I sleep better on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon, not sure why. It’s nice to be able to chat with someone that can relate and I am so thankful for RA groups. Gently hugs to you.

  • LynnElliott
    10 months ago

    Thank you for your post Monica. I too have restless nights and change positions frequently. I am looking forward to the comments to your post as I have a feeling it is the norm.
    We will see and I hope you continue on an even keel! Lynn

  • Jeanne51
    10 months ago

    I have been sleeping in my recliner for the last 2 years. I try to get back in the bed at times but when I roll on my hips the pain is terrible. I wake up about every few hours just from the pain in my back, hips and feet. I hate this disease. I am on so many meds I just don’t know if its doing more damage then good. What all do you take to help with your RA and to help with sleep. I see some of you take night meds what type?? OK Conference call 3AM sharp !

  • mackie
    10 months ago

    I really sympathise and feel for you all! I’m flat out on the sofa as usual after work, exhausted but dare not nod off in case it affects the ‘sleep’ l get tonight. Ive tried medication, herbal remedies, pillows, hot wax but haven’t yet found the magic pill which will give me more than a few hours rest. I’m dreaming of that day ( or I would if I could sleep, lol)! My biggest comfort is my kind, wonderful and patient partner, thank goodness for love! Wishing you all a good nights rest xx

  • tckrd
    10 months ago

    I only get about 1.5 hours of sleep at a time. I am woke up because of severe hip pain along with hands, wrists and feet. I do take sleep aids so I can get back to sleep. After trying on one side then the other and sleeping on my back I switch to the recliner. I now have required nap time every day so I can get some additional sleep. Maybe some day a medication will be found to bring the arthritis in line so I won’t have so much pain and be able to sleep.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    10 months ago

    Lousy !! I wake up at least an hour each night and then I am ready to sleep anytime during the day. I hate it. I do not even like TV in the middle of the night. Someone make it stop. Pills, no good. Staying awake all day, no good. Nothing has worked.

    OK, I will call you at 3 AM tonight.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    I’ll be awake!

    Often, I wake up “early” and get some real work done (more than I get done in a full day, sometimes) but I fall asleep and I’m exhausted the entire day.

    It’s a true no-win scenario, this RA.

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