Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Sleep & RA – How to get a good night’s rest?

Sleep and RA

Many people with Rheumatoid Arthritis find it difficult to get a good night’s rest. RA is associated with symptoms including daytime sleepiness, fatigue, pain, and depression – all of which may affect the ability to sleep well at night.  In fact, it is estimated that sleep problems affect 54% to 70% of adults with RA.  In addition to discomfort associated with joint pain, individuals with RA are at increased risk for primary sleep disorders including restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and periodic leg movements of sleep.

RA and sleep

We recently asked our Facebook community if they had tips for getting comfortable – and staying comfortable – while sleeping. Here are some of the most common recommendations:

  • Using Tempurpedic mattress and pillows
  • Sleep-Number Beds
  • Memory Foam Pillows
  • Sleeping with a pillow between my knees/legs
  • Using a rolled up towel to keep my head elevated
  • Contour Pillow
  • Heating Pads
  • Sleeping in a recliner
  • Sleeping on an incline
  • Seeing a chiropractor
  • Using ice to soothe pain
  • Taking a hot bath

Working on general sleep hygiene is one way to improve the quality of sleep you get each night.  Have you found ways to improve your sleep? Please share in the comments!


  • toyvl
    2 years ago

    I have problems shutting off my brain and relaxing in to sleep. What I have taught myself to do when this happens is to, starting with the top of my head, tell myself over and over, for example, relax your forehead muscle, over and over until I feel them relax. I then move to my eye brows, eye lids, cheeks, mouth, chin neck shoulders, etc. and so forth. Never move from one muscle part to the other until it is relaxed. Sometimes you may have to start all over but, NEVER have I made it all the way to my feet before I fall asleep. Takes practice but after you get the hang of it, it works like a charm. Seems to keep me asleep longer also. Try it!

  • KarenG.
    3 years ago

    I cannot tell you how many pillows are on my bed – I’ve lost count! Pillows for head, neck, back, under legs, between knees….. Every night something new. Best yet, hubs uses as many pillows as I do, if not more, so there’s no argument about the amount of pillows. The more, the merrier!

  • Jodilb67
    3 years ago

    A good hot shower helps me fall asleep. Unfortunately, 4am rolls around and I’m laying there with my eyes wide open a few nights a week. But the shower definitely relaxes me and makes me sleepy if I’ve had a busy day!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Sleep is definitely one of the primary issues that comes up in the community Jodilb67. Here is an article on RA and sleep from the editorial team that offers some recommendations: Hope something here may be of use.

    Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis Team)

  • Pamela
    4 years ago

    For the past 12 years, I have been sleeping with a Leachco Back n Belly pillow. Found out about them when my daughter-in-law was pregnant and had one. It keeps me comfortable in any position. I roll around a lot at night due to pain, and it’s nice not to have to keep moving my pillow supports.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing Pamela! So glad to hear that you have found something that is working for you. I know others in our community will appreciate the suggestion. Thank you for being here! Kelly Dabel, RD – Team

  • Purnima
    4 years ago

    Hi! While lying down I use bean bag beneath my thighs.. It gives comfort to my knees and legs. I use fibre mattress.. Fibre is even better and softer than foam. But I find hard to even turn around due to excessive pain.

  • Lauren Tucker moderator
    4 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips. We are sorry to hear you are still in excessive pain, you certainly are not alone. I know others in our community have found this article to be helpful.

    We are happy you are part of our community.
    Best Wishes, Lauren ( Team Member)

  • Sharon
    6 years ago

    Reading the list above made me laugh. Figures that last month I went down and bought what is probably the firmest mattress short of a cloth covered board. DH loves it. I’m probably going to add a memory foam cushion to it, now. Anything to help my back’s new aches.

    Since my RA was diagnosed ~35 years ago, I’ve used waterbeds (2 styles), soft and medium firm mattresses, pillow tops -firm, and now this new one. I should have joined this forum sooner!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the comment Sharon. It’s always good to hear when someone in the community is laughing. Finding what works for you in finding comfort is a constant battle. Here is one contributors ideas/tips on adaptations for all around the house:

    Good luck finding what’s best for you. Richard ( Team)

  • jan curtice
    6 years ago

    My life-saver for sleeping has been my electric blanket(s). I use mine year round. I have one I use as a mattress pad and one as a blanket to create a “cocoon”. At night, I keep them on low or medium. The warmth keeps my muscles/joints/etc from cooling down and stiffening up. On the days where I have alot of pain, my cocoon is a refuge that provides comfort. NOTE: there are electric heating mattress pads. For some reason, they don’t work as well for me as the blanket underneath. Also, the blanket is soft and flexible while the pad is more rigid.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Your post brought a smile to my face Jan. My wife, Kelly Mack, has RA and is a contributor here and uses her heating blanket year-round. It has been near 100 degrees here in Washington, DC this summer and she still sleeps with the “heatalator.” We work hard to find the balance between the AC and making sure she is warm enough at night. Thanks for your comment and best of luck in finding your balance. Richard ( Team)

  • Kerry
    6 years ago

    I sleep in a Recliner

  • Poll