It’s no secret that people with arthritis often struggle with getting a good night’s rest. In one of our recent Zoom Cafe’s, we discussed sleep and how to improve it.

Even for people who do not live with chronic conditions, sleep remains a complex and sometimes elusive aspect of our lives. We’ve all had nights where we struggle to sleep, leaving us restless and tired the next day. Understanding the intricacies of sleep and learning strategies to improve its quality is crucial for overall well-being. Let’s explore this fascinating topic together.

Sleep phases and cycles

Sleep isn’t a singular state but a series of phases and cycles our bodies go through. Broadly, there are two main phases: Non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

Non-REM sleep: This phase consists of three stages:

  • Stage 1: The dosing stage, marked by the first gamma rhythm in our brainwaves.
  • Stage 2: A transient stage bridging wakefulness and deep slow-wave sleep.
  • Stage 3: Deep, slow-wave sleep where our brain undergoes a good clean.

REM sleep: This is the dream state of sleep, occurring approximately 100 minutes after falling asleep and lasting around 20 minutes. We cycle through these phases roughly every 90 minutes during the night.

Common sleep challenges

Many of us face sleep challenges, which can manifest in various ways:

  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Waking up and struggling to fall back to sleep.
  • Experiencing a combination of both issues.

Our experiences with sleep challenges are often diverse but also quite common.

Tips to improve sleep quality

  • Natural light: Seek morning sunlight to reset your body clock.
  • Limit evening light: Reduce exposure to artificial light before bedtime.
  • Hydration and timing of drinks: Avoid drinking close to bedtime.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Practice a wind-down routine, visualisation, and breathing exercises.

Managing daytime fatigue

Dealing with fatigue due to poor sleep requires a balanced approach:

  • Pace yourself: Avoid overexertion and take breaks as needed.
  • Nutrition and hydration: Consume nutritious foods and stay hydrated.
  • Avoid quick fixes: Steer clear of sugary snacks or caffeine for temporary energy boosts.

Sleep tips from members of our Facebook s
upport groups:

  • Engage in relaxing activities: Read a book, listen to calming music, or try herbal sleep tea.
  • Physical activity: Gentle exercises and foot stomping during the day may alleviate restless legs at night.
  • Comfort measures: Use a hot water bottle or wear socks to bed for added comfort.

Recommendations from Sleep Scientist Dr Matthew Walker:

If you’ve had a poor night’s sleep. He advises against overcompensating by doing the following, as it may make it difficult to fall asleep the next night:

  • Avoid waking up later than usual.
  • Refrain from going to bed earlier than your usual bedtime.
  • Don’t take naps during the day.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine.

Sleep is a vital component of our overall health and well-being. By understanding the sleep phases, recognising common challenges, and implementing practical strategies, we can improve our sleep quality and wake up refreshed. 

Related article on sleep and arthritis:

Do you have trouble sleeping with arthritis? – Arthritis New Zealand

Download the factsheet:

Sleep and Arthritis

Links to external sleep resources:

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