Written by Tracey Kellett

Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep due to arthritis or a long-term autoimmune condition? You’re not alone. Managing sleep with these conditions can be quite challenging, given the discomfort and pain that often come with them. 

Finding a comfortable sleeping position and achieving restful sleep can seem like an uphill battle. 

We conducted a survey in April to delve into the sleep patterns and challenges faced by individuals dealing with arthritis or related conditions. Out of a total 51 responses, 34 requested to have a Sleep Information Pack sent to them, and three people requested a telephone consult about sleep.

Here’s a summary of what we discovered from our sleep survey:

Sleep Duration:
When asked about their sleep duration over the last three nights, the responses were as follows:

  • The majority averaged between 0-5 hours or 6 hours of sleep.
  • Experts recommend adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but only 22% of our respondents achieved this recommended duration.

Sleep Challenges:

  • 42 respondents reported difficulty waking up during the night and getting back to sleep.
  • 30 respondents struggled with falling asleep at night.
  • A staggering 70% of respondents mentioned that their arthritis or related condition affects their sleep every night or often.
  • Only 2 respondents reported having no sleep issues at all.

    How are New Zealanders sleeping?

    On World Sleep Day this year, Sealy released the findings from their 2023 follow-up Global Sleep Survey, which asked 20,000 participants across nine countries about their sleep habits and experiences. 

    One of the key findings is the need for people in Aotearoa to understand more about sleep quality. 

    While more than half (55%) of New Zealanders get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, 60% reported waking up feeling unrested at least five days a week. Concerningly, 1 in 10 Kiwis admit to never waking up feeling refreshed, with this number increasing to 1 in 4 people who do shift work. 

    The study collected data about males and females and found that although there isn’t much difference in how much sleep men and women get, women are more likely to be negatively affected by a lack of sleep. Women are more likely to eat worse, not stick to routines, cancel plans, and be irritable after a poor night’s sleep. Women also report higher rates of feeling anxious and depressed following periods of insufficient sleep.  

    Younger people report more problems than those in the 50+ age group. 

    Up to 80% of people with arthritis have difficulty sleeping. Getting comfortable enough to doze off and stay asleep can be a formidable task with achy, stiff, and sometimes swollen joints. 

    Research finds that the relationship between arthritis pain and sleep works both ways — pain and stiffness can make sleep difficult, and poor sleep can make your joint pain worse and even increase the likelihood that you may experience depression. 

    We know how important this topic is to our community as we had a record number of attendees for 2024 at our Sleep Zoom café! 

    Read about sleep cycles and combatting fatigue from our Zoom cafe last month by health coach Rebecca Murphy:

    Sleep is a complex topic that does not often have a ‘quick fix. (arthritis.org.nz)

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