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Toss and Turn, Sleep and RA

Toss and Turn, Sleep and RA

I looked at the clock with uncertainty as I awoke to a dull but spreading pain in my hand. The darkness of the night crept through the slits in the blinds. “You can’t be serious,” I thought to myself, “I can’t handle another sleep deprived night.” Losing myself in the land between consciousness and alertness, I dosed on and off intermittently. Time crept along and a lugubrious march through the melancholy night of increasing discomfort in my fingers and knuckles. “Have I been sleeping?” I thought as the darkness persisted.

RA sleep disturbance

A dose of prednisone as mandated by the doc washed down my throat as thoughts of the coming day began to enter my mind. “If it is just my left hand, I will manage. But I’ve got to get some sleep, otherwise, it will be a drudge-fest.” I reached for the extra pillows I keep nearby, ready to be stacked, folded, or otherwise contorted to provide some comfort to swollen limbs, digits, joints, or feet. I tried elevating my arm, folding it across my chest with a pillow beneath my elbow, and an array of other desperate maneuvers to see if I could reduce the brewing wretchedness. The pillows didn’t work. Nothing would relieve the malevolent throbbing that announced its presence like an unwelcome Mephistopheles here to collect the damned.

Strangely enough, I eventually fell back asleep with my hand squeezed tightly between my rib cage and arm. Reducing the pain was a matter of immobilization. When the alarm greeted me, so too did flashes of pain, building it seemed, through the last hours of the dark morning. I pulled my hand in front of my face and with sadness noted visible swelling and a constricting wedding band that would be difficult to remove. “At least I got a few hours of sleep,” I thought, trying to give naive encouragement to my sinking motivation. “Just get moving, and things will get better.”

Strategies for sleeping with RA pain

Unfortunately, if I wake up in pain due to the capriciousness of rheumatoid arthritis, it is a toss up whether or not I will go back to sleep. I have developed a few strategies for handling such nighttime misadventures, one of which, stacking pillows, was mentioned above. Getting pillows just right, not an inch too high or low, and with my arms, wrists, of hands positioned just so, can be enough to appease the blessed Hypnos and bring a shaky slumber. Not every time, but sometimes.

Immobilize

Whether the pain is in the wrist, knuckles, or fingers, I find immobilizing the entire hand with a brace or ace bandage can relieve the pain enough to get back to sleep. I keep a reversible brace near the bed.

Ice or Heat

Inflammation during a flare gives me a sensation of heat in the affected joints. This by itself is enough to keep me awake, though the accompanying pain doubles down on the RA-induced insomnia. I keep a few ice packs in the freezer and have used them on my knees and shoulders in the middle of the night. Fifteen minutes of ice has been enough on occasion to get me back to sleep, at least for a few more hours. Some people do not like cold with RA. Perhaps heat will provide nighttime relief.

Sleeping aids

Talk to your doctor about prescription sleeping aids. On occasion, if the pain is present before sleep or just after, a sleeping aid has helped get me through the night. I personally try to avoid sleeping aids as much as possible. I quickly become reliant. Yet on occasion, they have been a lifesaver when the morning held some critical event.

Resignation

Lastly, there is an unfortunate reality to RA and the sleeplessness it can induce. If a night spent awake tossing and turning seems inevitable despite my best attempts, I find reading a book or doing something work related can at least pass the hours.

What strategies work for you?

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

Comments

  • Janice58
    5 days ago

    I put my right hand under my thigh at night or under my arm put.

  • agny
    6 days ago

    Has anyone any recommendations for types of mattress to help sleep with RA inflamed joints?

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    6 days ago

    Hi there, We’ve had a few discussions on this topic! You can also search “mattress” on our site to see more info. This article is a great review of a heated mattress topper: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/best-purchase/. And this one covers some great tips for getting more comfortable: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/10-ways-to-get-comfortable-during-a-flare-tips-from-the-ra-community/. Hope those are helpful. Thanks for reaching out! Great question! Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • wontgiveup
    3 weeks ago

    I to have trouble sleeping when my hands are swollen and painful. I wear the fingerless gloves and put my hand between my face and pillow. The pressure seems to give some comfort.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    6 days ago

    Glad you’ve been able to find some relief! Thanks for sharing what is helping you feel better and relieving some of the pain in your hands. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • MaryEllenS
    4 weeks ago

    I have an electric blanket on my bed and in spring, fall, and winter months, I hear my bed up to as hot as I can get it in 30-45 minutes. Then I pull the plug. I think that helps my joints relax and hurt less.Cold beds are no good:-)

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    6 days ago

    Great tip MaryEllen. Thanks for sharing. Great idea especially to “preheat” and then turn it off. I imagine it helps overheating once you climb in. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • Felicia Riley
    4 weeks ago

    I watch videos on Facebook on my phone to pass time when I can’t get to sleep.

  • Jerry
    5 months ago

    If I can’t sleep I get up and hit my recliner. I turn on the news (thank God for 24 hour news) and try to sleep. I am on disability and I have the luxury of napping anytime also. There are times when my body is dead tired but my mind won’t stop. Or the pain is so intense nothing will knock it down. I’m resigned to the fact that this is part of RA and my life so I don’t get upset like I did when I started my RA journey.

  • sondecicada
    5 months ago

    Geesh! Your post was like you somehow had access to my brain and knew exactly what it’s like for me.
    My strategies are basically the same. Pillows (6 of them) is fundamental. Intense heat for prolonged period usually gives me about 30 minutes of relief. As a nurse. . . I’m a big coward regarding sleep aids. However, it is not on my list of willing to try one yet. And for those evenings when nothing works and I begin the cycle of profound anxiety and fatigue regarding the sleepless night, I bring up one of my favorite movies. You know? The movies that you watch over and over and it’s still a favorite? Well . . . these movies serve as a distraction and I can usually prevent the anxiety attack. My wish for you is that the RA resolves or recedes and that your future is filled with good things and many moments of happiness.

  • Carla Kienast
    5 months ago

    Hi Michael: This is tough. I can’t make it more than two nights without a decent amount of sleep. Unfortunately, my friends have gotten used to seeing frequent posts and tweets from me at 3:00 am. About once a week or so I take a gabapentin before I go to bed. It’s not a sleep aid per se, but it does make me sleepy and I get a great night’s rest. Like you, I don’t like to go the medication route, but used responsibly it works for me.

  • kbdwa
    6 months ago

    I have finally just given up on sleeping laying down…just too many pressure points. I sleep almost sitting upright, propped up with pillows. It is just easier for me to stick pillows under hands or other offending limbs in that position. On particularly difficult nights, my pillows and me move to the couch. Not how I would ever imagine as a position for a good night’s sleep, but I have found I stand a chance of of getting several consecutive hours this way.

  • Bella14
    6 months ago

    Does anyone have severe SI JOINT pain? And what do you do for it? I’ve had shots there and they are thinking of doing a Radio Frequency Ablation which burns the nerve in that area the RA has focused on. My neck, spine, fingers I can deal for now but that joint determines whether I get up or not..

  • Jobo
    2 days ago

    Try msm cream on that area, I had a very sore shoulder and rubbed msm cream on it, the next morning it was much better.

  • Grand-moogi
    2 months ago

    Yes I have it there and also the pubic joint although I don’t know whether that is RA or OA. I know they both showed up in a bone scan. The difficulty with SI joint pain is that you cannot lie on either side as it hurts too much, You end up lying on your back all the time and then there is a problem with lying in one position all the time as that hurts too. I am lucky I suppose. I am on those biologic injections. The government pays for them here in Australia if your RA is bad enough. I also wear very strong pain patches, 100mcg fentanyl. I still get pain but nowhere near as much and I am currently going through the malaise and despondency of an RA flair despite the injections and pain patches.

  • Bella14
    6 months ago

    Hi
    I take a sleep aid, put on prayers before sleep from my phone and it’s all good. If I didn’t take the sleep aid, I’d be up for days in a row. I am a senior and been taking prescription sleep medicine for 15 years so don’t worry about being dependent, I am senior so to me I don’t care to be dependent as long as I sleep.
    RA is a chronic illness I find that nobody understands. They think you just have ‘standard’ arthritis and don’t take you serious when you say you ache. And my pain is a word called ache to others now because quite frankly, nobody wants to hear the word pain.

  • stevieboy
    6 months ago

    I also have problems sleeping it’s either swollen joints or back in my spine or my shoulder which has impingement and osteraritis in my collar bone

  • Tatess
    11 months ago

    RA is the hardest thing I have to deal with.I internalize and my mind races. Sleepless nites are my best friend.Always no sleep. I surrender.

  • stevieboy
    6 months ago

    Ifeel sorry for anyone who has this illness it’s very painful and makes you feel very depressed I try think positive but sometimes it’s hard I tried lemon and ginger but unfortunately it didn’t help

  • FionaSR
    11 months ago

    I struggled for YEARS with broken sleep. Finally, I tried THC drops. I take 6-7 drops just before bed and get the best sleep I have had in years. I wake refreshed, without pain. The first time this happened I was amazed…I had forgotten what a restful, uninterrupted night of sleep feels like! Mood has improved, memory and cognition have also improved. More importantly, the THC is so effective I no longer take narcotic pain relief at bedtime. I take Xeljanz for the RA with six tabs of methotrexate weekly and folic acid daily. Occasional knee injections of cortisone in the right knee also help to control pain and swelling in that joint. Try THC . The CBD drops did nothing for me.

  • Cyd
    4 months ago

    I live in a state where any form of marijuana is still illegal. That aside, where does one buy THC drops. CBD oil, alone, does nothing for me either, but I do feel like it makes my [narcotic] pain medication work better & longer – thus reducing the need to increase the dose. There are exceptions, trust me, but generally it’s a mix that works for me.

  • Dingie56
    11 months ago

    As an RN of over 30 years, I truly am ashamed at the lack of pain control provided for someone in significant pain.

    The fear that has been instilled in MDs along was the persistent coaching from every non medical governmental, political, and private organizations to deny appropriate available treatment is a massive failure on all fronts.

    There are times when an opioid is appropriate, not abusive, simply compassionate care of a fellow human in pain.

    I am new to this a very long road. I fought for appropriate pain management and feel no shame nor do I abuse the privilege.

    Talk openly about treatment plans. Pain management MDs have become the managers of both acute and chronic pain. This may provide an alternative to living a life in severe pain sleepless nights etc.

    Happy Holidays and to all a Good Night

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    4 months ago

    God bless you. It is a struggle few who do not suffer from chronic pain recognize. I have been called every name imaginable from drug addict to dope fiend by, “so-called” friends because of my insistence on appropriate pain medications for those who require them. Though empathetic to the true abusers I cannot help feeling anger at the legislation to limit pain medication due to their abuse. I am a human being deserving of kindness and empathy. I want no sympathy just fair treatment. I am tired of the noose that tightens around my rheumy’s neck because he is a compassionate doctor who tries in good faith to diminish his patients’ pain. I am tired of the suspicious looks and difficulties I encounter trying to fill a prescription for opioids.

  • Tatess
    11 months ago

    You are so right. THANK YOU

  • Dingie56
    11 months ago

    As an RN for over 30 years,I am apalled at the lack of appropriate treatment for chronic pain that has became the normal. MDs I have discussed this with are in fear of prescribing opoids.

    I contacted to be sadly surprised that hypnotics , sleeping pills are offered as a method of “sleeping” through the pain. These are dangerous as opioids but not popular with the drug abuse community currently.

    I fought for my treatment plan that includes opioids when needed. Of course there are risks, as there are with driving while fatigued or in pain. Plethoras of scientific studies provide the knowledge of the effects of long term pain other than suffering.

    Mistakes made due to fatigue or lack of focus due to pain. Loss of social and marital relationships, depression, personality changes withdrawal, immobility and the well documented effects leave me stupefied when I read an advice that I suggests decreasing blood flow to reduce pain.

    Fight for what you need, don’t be ashamed to as for what you need because of news programs.

    Happy Holidays and to all a good night!!

  • Nina Winterbottom moderator
    11 months ago

    You reminded me of many of Wren’s articles, @dingie56. She talks about misconceptions about these painkillers and how important they can be for managing. This is just one of them: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/opioids-pain-qualifty-of-life/. In any situation, it’s so important to advocate for yourself. Thank you for commenting! – Nina RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • FionaSR
    11 months ago

    The attitude taken by some MDs is ridiculous. My own family Dr refuses to Rx narcotics for pain and if he wasn’t an excellent dr in all other respects, I would be looking for someone else. I take THC for pain and sleep management. 6 gtts at hs and all is well.

  • Bluemoon1125
    11 months ago

    I discovered kratom for pain relief/anxiety. I also take 3/4 of a Tizanidine nightly (muscle relaxer). And I take a Benedryl. In spite of this cocktail, I wake up half a dozen times a night. How can this persistent sleep deprivation be good for the immune system? I must say that i have serious resentment against doctors who do not recognize and treat this aspect of the disease. I do not have the luxury of sleeping during the day because i work at a job just to maintain my crappy health insurance. I am a teacher with a masters degree and really feel that healthcare for RA sucks, as does the insurance offered to teachers. But let’s face it… 77% of teachers are women and most RA sufferers are women… Connect the dots here.

  • Whiskersvtwin
    11 months ago

    All so true. I’m in-between RXs now and the flare is crushing. I sort of sleep, like everyone else, but what does help is either my clonazepam or cannabis. I prefer the cannabis to the pharmaceutical since it helps almost immediately and it doesn’t knock me out so I cannot wake up in the morning. I’ve had only one good night sleep in 2018 where I woke up feeling rested, the other nights – meh.

  • Frazzled
    11 months ago

    I totally get what you are saying. I am on Zolpidem ER, Trazodone, clonazepam, and cannabis, plus a benedryl and melatonin. I wake up just fine, but when I start a flare, nothing works. Most people would not be able to get out of bed for a week with all the stuff I take, but it has been this way mostly for 25+ years. I just had a sleepless night this past Tuesday and nothing…and I mean nothing…got me back to sleep. Wasn’t the traditional flare as it were, but it screwed up what should have been a perfectly great day at work.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    11 months ago

    I’m so sorry to hear that, @whiskersvtwin! Sleep is one of most frustrating things for people with RA. I am right there with you.

    For me, melatonin has helped but it doesn’t help me sleep through the night. I try to just sleep when I can no matter the time of day. It’s the only way I get any rest!

    Thanks for sharing! ~Monica

  • IamStable
    11 months ago

    My advice to everyone is to not worry about it. Once I accepted that this is my new normal, everything went better. No, I didn’t get a better night’s sleep, but I felt better mentally. Sometimes I can sleep morning, noon and night, other times I’m up all the time. Sleeplessness seems to hit me about once a month. And it doesn’t seem to affect my day. I give up. It just is.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    11 months ago

    Thanks for sharing, @iamstable! I have to agree with you.

    At the beginning, I tried fruitlessly to get a good night’s sleep so I didn’t rely on naps during the day. I realized it wasn’t going to happen anymore and I had a new normal. Once I acknowledge that, like you, I felt better.

    Now, I don’t sweat the night rest and fit in a nap whenever possible.

    ~Monica

  • suri613
    1 year ago

    hi! i can surely empathize with you. like you, i use pillows to cushion painful areas. it’s very hard for me to fall asleep & i wake up a few times a night. i take circadin befpre bed, which is a time-released melatonin (not a sleeping pill). it helps somewhat with the quality of the sleep that i DO manage to get.

  • MissBeki
    1 year ago

    pillows, yes, feather especially, because of O.A. in ny neck. Electric mattress pad does wonders for me, because I can use heat on multiple joints. If you are lucky enough to have a hot tub, which I used to, a 20 minute soak before bed was great. low dose (1 mg) melatonin and valerian root are my night time supplements, along with my calcium/magnesium/d tabs and tumeric capsules.

  • TiffD
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for this. I was just diagnosed and I’m currently weening off prednisone to start treatment with methotrexate.

    I’ve been flaring for the past three weeks and was beginning to think I must be imagining my sleep issues! It’s nice to know it’s not just me – even though I wish this on nobody.

    I find my knee and ankle joints burn so bad I spend 3-4 hours a night icing them.

  • qejm0g
    1 year ago

    Everyone has such helpful suggestions! One that I thought I read on RA.net which has been so helpful to me is using a pillow originallly designed for pregnancy! It shaped liked a giant ‘C’. I’ve added my own mods to it-an extra pillow at the bottom so my ankles don’t touch each other and sometimes one in the middle which makes it a giant ‘O’ so my elbows don’t touch. It helps support and prevents all my joints from resting on each other. The brand is called Snoogle.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    11 months ago

    Thanks for the suggestions, @qejm0g! I will definitely try these out. I thought you might like this article about pillow placement: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-pillow-queen/

    All the best, Monica

  • TiffD
    1 year ago

    This is such a good idea worth trying! Thanks for sharing.

  • tckrd
    1 year ago

    Wrist braces, ace bandages, pillows, pain meds and sleep aids and I still only get about 1 1/2 hours of sleep at a time.

  • betharooski
    1 year ago

    I too am familiar with trying to convince the sandman to come see me. This is a southern children’s tale that he comes at night to sprinkle magic sand over your eyes. That’s why we rub our eyes when we wake up. If only it were that sweet and simple. On my worst nights I give up and leave the warm body of my husband to sleep in the guest bedroom. When I can’t sleep I hear his every snore, feel the bed move when he turms over and feel pain when he unknowingly rolls over to toss an arm around me. I get out of bed to find peace! I try super hard to relax since I was very grumpy to have to change beds in the first place! I tell myself that I am in a fabulous hotel bed where I can sleep like a queen undisturbed. I use all my tricks like everyone else does. Sometimes it works and some times you just have to take some medicine. I wish for peaceful dreams to all…zzzz

  • Mamawsherbear
    1 year ago

    Oh boy this sounds so familar to me probably for alot of us ,as retarded as this sounds i watch the weather when i see that the barometer is going to move 3or4 degrees i start taking prednisone 2days before to try and ward off a flare i take it for a couple days and then i back off of it most of the time this works pretty well this way i dont have to slowly wean off i told my RA dr this and she said that was pretty smart ,i cant take RA meds other than prednisone because of other health issues but anyway when im going to have a flare it ALWAYS starts in my right ring finger when i feel my rather large nodule starting to ache i know im y in trouble my hands are really messed up my fingers are completely covered in nodules my fingers on my right hsnd are twisted to the right and my top knuckles are bent sideways they look broke they are really ugly BUT i keep my fingernails done all the time they are always painted usually a pretty design on my ring finger and its amazing that usually the first thing people notice are my nails lol it makes me feel better to keep them done i feel better about myself its kind of funny how such a small thing can make you feel ,my fingers stay almost in a constant state of being so swollen that the wrinkles in my knuckles are hardly visable right now the prednisone is keeping the worst of the pain away ,everyone is different i use to use heat on my hands all the time but my pm dr told me to try ice it hurt worse for the first 3or 4 minutes but after that it really helps ,prednisone i have a love /hate relationship with it its like a credit card enjoy now pay later .When pain attacks me at night i try to keep my hands flat i kind of put them under my body however im laying to keep them straight if i dont i cant uncurl them in the morning i know it sounds strange but it works for me,and oh yes the wonderful world of insomnia im on a sleeping aid but sometimes even that doesnt work so i started shaking some of my baby grandsons lavender baby powder in my pillowcases it helps they make this to help babies sleep better so i actually bought the baby wash and the lotion and the powder had to quit stealing his lol not only is it relaxing it smells good LAVENDER PROMOTES SLEEP, if all else fails i cut a klonipin in half i dont like them but it helps me sleep after not sleeping for days i finally break down and just do it so now for the biggie please dont judge me i love sleeping with the windows open when autumn comes i love the cool fresh air but mostly i love the sounds of crickets and locust ,i have a rule in my house no killing crickets if they find there way in ,when my hubby fishes in the summer and doesnt use all his crickets i keep them alive in the cricket cage by cutting a potato in half and a small piece of wet paper towel so they eat and drink i know it sounds weird but it works for me lol i hope everyone stays safe and PAINFREE GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THESE ARTICLES EVERY WEEK I LOOK FORWARD TO THEM

  • sarahAIW
    1 year ago

    If my husband is home he will make me a bath of Epsom salts. I find that I need to immobilize my wrists sometimes for sleep. It’s awful flaring, being on prednisone, being exhausted, and unable to sleep. Thanks for sharing this.

  • REDBONE
    1 year ago

    How well do I know about those days and nights; It’s been 27yrs and still counting! I have a hand brace, and do have to use it occasionaly; It has been 2yrs since I’ve needed it. I’m soooo glad that I haven’t had a cortisone injection in the fat part of my hand, just below the base of my thumb; that’s when I have to use my brace for 2- 3days! I’m thankful that I’m completely weaned off of prednisone, and hopefully, I want need to be ever again!!!

  • BS2018
    1 year ago

    I have used a Melatonin and L-Theanine combination (comes in a gummy and a capsule). Melatonin has never worked for me but the combination works wonders. L-Theanine supposedly relaxes you without drowsiness and the Melatonin then can do it’s magic. My daughter takes it because she also does not sleep–and hasn’t since she was little.

    The caveat is you must be prepared to go to sleep. Don’t take the pills and then decide to clean the house. Take the pills (my daughter takes 3, I take 2, my dog takes 1 😉 ) and go lie down. A nice warm bath (not hot) beforehand is helpful too.

    Just another suggestion to add to your arsenal.

  • suri613
    1 year ago

    melatonin wears off in just a couple of hours. have you looked into getting circadin, which is a slow-release version of melatonin? in any case, glad you’ve found a formula that works it’s magic on you!

  • MaryB
    1 year ago

    This is an excellent article. I am treating the RA and inflammatory arthritis like I have had to do with the Crohn’s Disease. Sometimes it’sa good cry, other times small projects or things I have had to do around the house, will help psychologically. Peace of mind is hard to get now but it is possible, and joining this website has been a blessing. Thank you for all the info you put on here.

  • DianeeB
    1 year ago

    Thanks to Michael Booth for a timely article on the challenge of sleep for those with RA. Like many of you, I have it repeatedly, so I very much appreciate the suggestions that work for you. I will just have to get more creative.
    I say it often, but this site has been so helpful to me – I learn something every week.

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    1 year ago

    So glad to hear you find our site resourceful, DianeeB. Thanks for being here with us! Warmly, Alesandra (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • trugagos
    1 year ago

    I rely on sleep aids every night–for at least 30 years. I’m the sole caretaker for my blind and deaf husband and I can’t do it without sleep.

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    1 year ago

    trugagos, I commend you for sharing so openly with us. I hope you have been sleeping well with your sleep aids. We’re glad to have you here in the community with us. Have a gentle day. – Alesandra (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this info about sleeping or the lack of. My husband’s idea is to find something on TV you really want to watch and you will go to sleep. Sometimes that works, other times it’s just a matter of acceptance. That’s harder.
    Once again, this website has been a big help.
    Thank you. Mary B.

  • sv1227
    3 years ago

    there is a relatively new time delayed prednisone, RAYOS. Take it at bedtime and it begins release about 4 hours later which is my RAdoc says is the time that inflammatory factors begin to rise each the morning. it’s made a tremendous difference in keeping me asleep and in my quality of sleep and reduces inflammation when I get up in the morning. Not cheap but insurance may cover if medically necessary to function as it was for me

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 years ago

    Hello sv1227, thank you for sharing what is helping you feel better! So glad that you’ve been able to find some relief. We appreciate you being part of our community. Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team member

  • Smoothtop
    3 years ago

    I too suffer from sleepless nights due to the pain of RA waking about every 45 minutes to an hour all night long because I have to move because something is hurting. I also have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and a host of other issues that cause chronic pain, stiffness and inflammation. I hate taking prednisone for flairs but it is a necessity sometimes to get through it. Anyway, I went for acupuncture yesterday – the inflammation in my knees, ankles, feet along with the hip pain and lower back and upper shoulder pain was horrible and preventing me from participating in life and my doctor actually suggested it. I slept straight through 9 hours and woke up this morning with very little pain, inflammation and swelling. He also did a “detox” procedure because of all the meds I have to take for the RA, etc. which will help cleanse the liver, kidneys, etc. I wanted to share this as an alternative for others that may benefit from acupuncture.

  • suri613
    1 year ago

    i too was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well as RA, so many of the symptoms overlap that i imagine it’s difficult to know what’s causing the pain. i hadn’t really thought of alternative medicine like acupuncture. thank you for sharing you positive experience with it.

  • REDBONE
    1 year ago

    Smoothtop, I’m prednisone free; I was soooo glad that my Rheumatologist weaned me off of it! I’m going to sign up for acupuncture, because I read that it was great for RA! I hope I can find a good acupuncturist(if that’s what they’re called)Lol . Will they take Medicare advantage plans or will I have to pay cash?

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    This sounds so familiar to many nights I have, that this just might work. Thank you for sharing.
    Mary B.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Smoothtop, thank you so much for sharing. That’s wonderful news that acupuncture was so helpful to you and helped you feel better! Wishing you continued relief! In addition to speaking with your doctor, for those who may be interested, this article on acupuncture may be helpful: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/alternatives-therapies/acupuncture-and-homeopathy/. Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • thegallopinggrandma
    3 years ago

    Thanks for all the helpful hints – I am on wedding ring number 4, having had to have the last 3 cut off ( over 43 years !). The new design enables me to push the rings apart to widen them if necessary, and so far seems to be working ! As far as sleeping goes, I tend to rely on sleeping tabs – then I wake up having slept on my arm and hand all night so it is completely dead !! It’s difficult to win ! Also I listen to an ‘Audible’ book with headphones to get me off to sleep – forget to set the timer and wake up at the end of the book each morning !!

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 years ago

    Glad you’ve found a ring option that’s working for you thegallopinggrandma! Thank you for sharing your sleep tips, the book on tape is a good idea! Thank you for being part of our community. Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team member

  • KarenG.
    3 years ago

    I could have written this article…. Thanks for sharing!

  • GingerS
    3 years ago

    All your comments ring a bell for me. Sleep at night is elusive. I worked nights off and on from many years. Just when I get into a good routine of sleep. I have a night no matter what I do I am awake all night.
    For some reason unknown to me. My RA starts acting up at 4am. You could set your alarm by it. 🙂 I have found using a fan at night works for me to get to sleep. The noise helps to block random thoughts and distracts me from mild pain. Counting down from 100 also works. Unfortunately cold compresses only increase pain in my fingers esp. Heat does help my other joints.
    The other problem is muscle cramps, spasms and “charlie horses” in my legs, feet occur when I lay down. I don’t believe I have seen anyone mention this. Though I understand that is part of RA. I am still fairly new to RA. Diagnosed almost 3 years ago.

  • RMK0722
    1 year ago

    I just read this article and know this comment was posted a few years ago, so there may be other posts on cramping and spasms I haven’t seen…yet. I was diagnosed about 2 1/2 years ago (a late/delayed diagnosis) and this website has been a wonderful support and educational tool for me!

    I wanted to say I too have issues with muscle cramping, spasms, etc. I’ve been taking magnesium glycinate (but just magnesium really) every night before bed and it has helped with the cramping, spasms, and “Charlie horses.” I’ve also found it helps a little bit with sleep too. In terms of sleep, I have horrible insomnia so it’s not enough as sleeping aid for me. As for muscle issues, I still have some really bad nights here and there, but overall I’d say it’s helped.

    Thank you everyone for sharing your tips/methods! I think I’m like many others who posted in that I don’t ever have a pain free night. My survival kit includes: TONS of pillows; heating pads; ice packs in a mini fridge in my room (I prefer heat over ice, but I do keep some of the ones they send with my injections on hand. They’re the gel ones, which I like, and I prefer them in the fridge vs freezer); of course I just mentioned the mini fridge with water, juice, snacks, and goodies 😉 so I don’t have to trek down the stairs if it’s a particularly painful night; compression gloves; wrist and hand stabilizers; a 5” memory foam/down alternative mattress topper that I found at an UNBELIEVABLY great price and on sale too on Groupon; a blanket that keeps me warm, but isn’t too heavy bc if it is my feet, especially my heels, and other joints will kill me!; my kindle; relaxation and sound apps on my iPad or iPhone; and I’m learning MBSR (mind based stress reduction) techniques.

    I still inevitably have those cycles when I don’t fall asleep until 6-7 am for several nights in a row and then eventually crash and sleep for 12 or so hours straight, but that will only happen when my body decides it’s ready to allow it to happen. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered controlling my body, thus the need for my survival kit!

    Thanks again for all of your suggestions! I’ll definitely be trying some!

  • Connie Rifenburg
    3 years ago

    This seems to be one of THE topics of RA. How to sleep. Who would believe you when you say “I discussed how to sleep” the other night. …. 😉 But it is almost comforting to hear others talk about the exact same thing I go thru at night. (Why is it that things seem to hurt MORE at night, aches seem WORSE at night, hours seem LONGER at night, and thoughts turn DARK at night?) Once the morning sun shines in the window, things seem a little better, or maybe just less threatening?

    I could really relate to doing the “alligator roll” that someone spoke of. And the hand under the running water… sometimes hot – sometimes cold is a go-to I use when I’ve tried all the “packs”…ice or heat. I’ve actually used the shower to just run over my aching body for as long as the hot water will last.

    I don’t know what I’d do without my recliner. That has become my second bed. There are times when laying down is JUST NOT COMFORTABLE any more! I’ve woken (waked?) up more times than I can count having drifted off to sleep in the recliner. That can be a no-no for those of use who use Cpap machines! I finally gave in and put an old cpap next to my chair, and if I really want to sleep in the chair, I have my machine right there.

    And those of us lucky enough to be ‘retired’… that nap thing is heaven when you’ve not been able to get even a wink of sleep. I can get myself messed up between night and day sleeping if I’m not careful and prednisone doesn’t help either… I’ve gone down to our laundry room and run 4 washers/dryers full because I couldn’t sleep. Nobody’s up at 3 am in the laundry room so I have it all to myself. Come mid-morning, clothes clean and eyes beginning to close… the bed looks so much better.

    Glad to know I might find another night owl on here some mornings. 😉
    Connie

  • Jerry
    3 years ago

    One more: Naps are so underrated in America.

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    I never believed in naps until not being able to do things, and sleep normally. Now I’m being told to get rest whenever, and naps, usually about 1-1 1/2 hours works well. I have learned not to feel guilty about them.
    Mary B.

  • Jerry
    3 years ago

    All to familiar.

  • swbw
    3 years ago

    Hi, I rarely get a good night’s sleep so I understand completely. Even with a sleeping pill I get just 2 or 3 hours. Some times getting up and sleeping in the recliner helps, sometimes ointments help, sometimes, Ibuprophen helps, sometimes light house work helps (a little strange in the middle of the night)…but nothing helps consistently. One thing that does help me relax is the drone of the dishwasher…not sure why, but I don’t argue with what helps. Meditation helps too if I can distract myself with Bible verses or remembering sweet things my granddaughters say. Naps during the day are a must.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Glad you are not one to underestimate the power of a good nap swbw. In this article one of our contributors writes about fighting the entire concept of napping as an adult, only to have finally “learned to take a nap and actually enjoy it … And sometimes that daytime nap even helps me sleep better at night. Who knew?”

    https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/no-time-naps/.

    Wishing you the best a finding sleep regimen that works better for you. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • LifenowwithRD
    3 years ago

    Good God, I could have written this article.. I used to love going to bed at night (pre RA) but now it gives me anxiety just to think of it. I try to get myself so tired I will HAVE to fall asleep..right? Wrong. Every night is an adventure in finding a comfortable position – and this is even when I’m not flaring – or at least I don’t think I am.. In the year since my diagnosis ( and for some time before while figuring it all out) I have been at war with sleep and comfort. Is there such a thing as a year long flare? I’ve had a few days/nights where I don’t even think about having RA but not many. Recently its my hips that are screaming out in pain every night if I lie too long on one or the other side. Of course my Rheumy tells me its not RA – how would she know without an xray or something?? It sure feels like the same dull, throbbing, hot pain as I get in my feet, hands, wrists, neck, etc… I’m one who prefers cold on hot joints at night, but I feel like the cold also wakes me up so I hate to dip my hip in ice at 2 am.. So for now I guess its pillows, pillows, and more pillows as well as continued gator-rolling back and forth searching for comfort… zzzzzzzzzz

  • thegallopinggrandma
    3 years ago

    My right hip and left knee hurt most at night – and they are both replacements and made of metal !! Think it must be my brain getting back at me !!

  • Nana1969
    3 years ago

    It is so nice to hear my rheumatologist isn’t the only one to say my RA isn’t in my hips. The pain is so awful I wake up every night because of it. I have tried injections, prednisone, pain pills and physical therapy but nothing helps. I love my dr but she needs to listen because not all patients are the same

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    Right. AND as I’ve been told by residents and a NP “we can’t learn everything in books!. Really?!
    Mary B.

  • 2mra
    3 years ago

    Hi Michael:

    Thank you for sharing your RA sleeping experiences and solid solutions that are of benefit for most of us. We must try whatever comes to mind to solve our troubled nights.

    This is a problem that most of us face every evening including myself. When I was in grade 7, I unintentionally became a night hawk. I found that my mind was more alert at 1 a.m. and my ideas for finishing my homework and creative projects came flowing out easily. Thus started my life of lacking much needed sleep and my Mom pulling me out of bed in the mornings. Mind you, when I did sleep then it was very deep and it was difficult to wake me up for school. I guess most kids go through that but mine never left.

    This RA sometimes throws a spoiler into my night-hawkishness where I could get really tired right after supper and not wake up until 7:30 a.m.

    Last year I was shockingly awoken by severe pain, numbness and terrible burning in my right hand. I had to get up and walk around moving my arm towards the floor which made it feel better. Then I ran cold water over my hand and wrist which helped much more. I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome(CTS) in my right wrist and hand due to RA. Around the same time, I was also dxd. with a torn Rotary Cuff in my left RA shoulder because I had over-exerted my left RA shoulder way too many times.

    My nights were a real mess for many months. About every half hour I’d have to get out of a lying position and settle into a sitting position. I had set up an ice bucket beside the bed full of ice water. I’d put my right hand into the frigid water for about 7 minutes until it was practically pain free. Then I’d have to rock forward and backward to relax the muscles and relieve the pain in my left shoulder. Sometimes I’d hum to relax myself more. I was headed for CTS and TRC surgeries but my shoulder healed just by using a cushioned sling during the day and sometimes at night plus my mentioned nightly rituals. I did have the CTS surgery which healed well. I am one of those people who normally can’t stand cold packs against my skin since it causes pain but this worked.

    My knee and hip have been causing me quite a bit of pain(nothing new for the knee)
    when walking and while sleeping. I have a 5″ memory foam topper on my mattress which my body appreciates very much. I also put a 6″x14 ” pillow under my knees and a throw pillow under my feet to relieve a lot of the pain. Sometimes when my left knee is misbehaving, I slip my right leg under my left leg until the knee feels better.

    My hubby bought me a 6″ tall, black glass light, that continually turns while projecting coloured stars and planets across the ceiling. I sometimes happily watch this until I fall asleep some nights.

    I use warmed bean bags to put on my knee and hip at night and other joints when needed. I wear socks to bed to keep my footies warm and I’m well snuggled in with a fuzzy warm blankey.

    I also put on whatever pain relieving gels or creams on my joints and muscles before I go to bed.

    I always make sure to take my appropriate collection of drugs and everything that I need is near my bed including my phone, so I just have to reach over for whatever I need and not have to worry about it.

    I don’t usually go to sleep until my brain starts crashing, so not much chance of me getting up to walk after I’ve gone to sleep unless the pain is too severe. Then I hop on the computer for a while.

    Thank you for posting about this important topic.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story 2mra. I notice that you mention how sometimes you can lay down right after supper and not wake up until the morning. My wife, Kelly Mack, (a contributor here) also has times where she simply needs to sleep for how ever long it takes for her body to recharge. She is incredibly active, works (more than) full time, and probably pushes too hard, but there are simply times that the RA piper needs to be paid. She writes about this need for sleep in this article, with her tips for good sleep habits: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-need-for-sleep/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 years ago

    I mostly do lack of sleep. I have been up since 4 AM this morning as the result of pain. I wish there was a better answer than getting up. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good alternative. I hope you find great sleep.

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