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The Need for Sleep

The Need for Sleep

I got a need. A need for sleep.

Partly, I do it to myself. I get all wrapped up in work, volunteer activities, and fun with friends and family. Quickly I fall behind in my sleep. And guess what, I really need my sleep!

I have found over the years I’ve been living with rheumatoid arthritis that I need more sleep than most people. And if I can’t sleep, then at least I need more rest where I’m sitting still or lying down.

This weekend I slept in for hours on Saturday, then also fell asleep early. Then on Sunday I took several naps. It felt ridiculous! But I also feel a little better after what seems like an overindulgence in sleep. If my body feels better, if I’m a little less achy and exhausted, then extra sleep works and I’m not going to argue.

For me, a sleep deficit is no joke. I get to the point where I can’t think, where my body aches painfully. It’s not a question of powering through. I must just stop and get serious rest.

The best solution would be not to get this behind in my sleep. I have no business pretending that I don’t need a solid eight hours (or honestly more) if I am going to be up to anything productive the next day. But rarely do I consistently get the rest that I require.

Usually I am catching up on my sleep over the weekend and trying to power up for the coming week. I love a long weekend where I can really get a stretch of regular rest.

It’s such a conflict for me. I’m lucky that I enjoy my work and my life. So I overbook myself and take on more than I probably should. Then, of course, I don’t want to let anyone down so I find myself burning the candle at both ends to make everyone (especially myself) happy.

When I crack down on my bad habits, I do so much better! This means I’m getting more regular sleep, keeping better hours and incorporating down time that’s restful or relaxing. Here’s some tips for cultivating good sleep habits:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Habits help to establish better sleep so that your body knows when to be sleepy and when to be awake.
  • Stay away from electronic devices an hour before sleeping. Researchers say the blue light from electronics disturbs our ability to fall asleep. This includes television, computers, and tablets.
  • Find comfortable sleep positions with plenty of joint support. My go-to is pillow under my knees while laying on my left side. This seems to put my achy joints at ease. I also need a bigger pillow under my head to make my neck happy. The best rest comes with happier joints, so comfort is key.
  • Naps can be our friend. If you’re feeling exhausted a short nap can be a pick-me-up. I practically live for weekend naps and they give me a second wind for the day.
  • If you can’t sleep, then at least rest. I have times when I am too achy to fall asleep, but lying down for a while to take pressure off my joints or give them a break can help me feel a little recovered.

Everyone has techniques for falling asleep or getting some bonus rest, like a warm cup of milk or hot cup of tea. Sometimes soothing soaks in the tub can aid in alleviating joint pain and relaxing tense muscles.

What are your secrets for good rest? Do you struggle with balancing activity with rest?

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.


  • Bill Meyer
    5 years ago

    I can totally relate to this. My day has “shortened” since RA. I need 9-10 hours of sleep a night.

  • Polly
    5 years ago

    I completely agree with you and Jan (comment above) on how important sleep is and how RA does mean we seem to need more!

    My ‘secret’ to getting enough rest is being a party pooper. 🙂 I don’t get behind on my sleep (or only no rare occasions) because I ‘just say no’. Doesn’t make for an exciting life though, I have to admit! 🙂 Also if I’m busy one day of the weekend (and I work full time so the weekend is fun time) I try to do very little on the other day, or maybe do quite a lot but do it at home so that if I do feel the need for a nap I can have one.

    My problem is I wake up 5 or 6 times a night, often because I’m in pain, and I have to roll over or get up for a bit or something to alleviate it. And of course the more I do this, the more sleep-deprived I become. Still working on cracking this vicious circle!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    5 years ago

    Really like your points about managing our activities so that we can get sleep. It’s about trying to strike a balance, isn’t it?

    I also have the same thing about waking up to reposition my achy joints. This is one of the reasons why I think we need extra sleep, because the RA wakes us up.

  • jan curtice
    5 years ago

    Hi Kelly, thank you for addressing this important RA health topic. I would like to add one more thing to your sleep tips “a dark(ened) room”. This puts our bodies into deeper sleep cycles. Which also means that having a TV running while trying to sleep keeps us from achieving our best sleeps. I sleep ALOT … and I mean ALOT … 9-10 hours at night, 1.5 hour nap, sometimes a second one. Most pain medications don’t work for me, so my body needs the sleep to bring those pain levels down. I also become fatigued easily, my body works hard. The sleep is essential for my body to repair itself. Skipping out on sleep is an invitation to a flare. The more I skip, the longer and more intense I can expect the flare to last. The good news is that this is one area of my disease I do have some control over. As I have taken steps to sleep better and when my body needs it, I have been finding that my pain levels are significantly down and the quality of my life up.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Jan, this is excellent advice! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂 Definitely agree that a darkened room is important and staying away from the electronics an hour before sleep. And also agree that sleep is needed to make our RA-bodies happier.

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