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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Arthritis Pain and Sleep

4. Exercise to Help Your Arthritis and Your Sleep

Be as active as possible during the day. This will strengthen your muscles and joints -- and it can help make you tired enough to go to sleep. Activity has also been shown to ease stress, which promotes a restful sleep. Being active isn’t always easy when you’re suffering from arthritis. Still, activities such as swimming, water aerobics, and moderate walking are doable for many people with arthritis. “The common wisdom is to exercise earlier in the day, since exercise itself can be arousing,” says Fontaine. “But some of our patients like to do a little light activity in the evening -- a walk around the neighborhood, for instance -- to tire themselves out. The best advice is to find what works for you.”

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.

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