5. Create a Sound Sleep Chamber
Reserve your bedroom for sleep. That way, you’ll associate getting under the covers with falling asleep. “Avoid watching TV, reading, working on your computer, or doing other stimulating activities in bed,” says Wilfred Pigeon, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Laboratory and author of Sleep Manual: Training Your Mind and Body to Achieve the Perfect Night’s Sleep. “Make the bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible. Put up heavy curtains or shades to eliminate distracting lights. Use earplugs if sound is a problem.”
What’s the best kind of mattress? Experts say a medium-firm mattress is often best for low back pain. “If you suffer from knee pain, try positioning a pillow under or between your knees to take some of the pressure off your joints,” says Kimberly Topp, PhD, professor and chair of the department of physical therapy and rehabilitation services at the University of California, San Francisco. “A small pillow under your neck can help align your spine and avoid neck pain while you sleep. Experiment to find what makes you comfortable.”
6. Don’t Linger in Bed
It may sound paradoxical, but staying in bed too long can create poor sleep. To treat insomnia, experts often restrict the amount of time people spend in bed. “That way, you help ensure that when you do go to bed, you’re more likely to be sleepy enough to fall asleep,” says Pigeon. “If you find yourself lying in bed for more than 15 minutes unable to sleep, get out of bed and do something that’s not too stimulating until you’re sleepy enough to try going to sleep again.” The reason: you won’t associate the bed with feeling restless. Over time, this strategy will help you associate the bed with sleeping, not tossing and turning.
7. Use Sleeping Pills Sparingly
Sleep medications may be useful for people who have acute insomnia. But if you’re suffering from chronic insomnia, which is often true for many people with arthritis, the first-line treatment should be better sleep hygiene, says Pigeon. “Medications treat the symptoms. Behavioral medicine can actually cure insomnia,” he says. In fact, some studies show that behavioral medicine may be more effective for many people. In a 2006 study, researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway compared cognitive behavioral therapy with a prescription sleep medication. Volunteers who took part in behavioral therapy were sleeping better six months later than the matched group who took pills. “Sleep medications are often useful for helping people get through a bad patch of insomnia,” says Pigeon. “But when people stop taking them, the insomnia often returns -- unless they learn to practice better sleep habits.”