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How Sleep Affects Osteoarthritis Pain

How Sleep Affects Osteoarthritis Pain - El Paso Chiropractor


About half of people diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA) experience difficulties when falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. As a matter of fact, studies show that individuals with hip and knee osteoarthritis have a higher chance of suffering from insomnia as well as daytime fatigue than those without OA.

The connection between people with OA and their ability to sleep is indisputable. The arthritis pain, common with the condition, can make getting a good night’s rest challenging for anyone. The symptoms related with osteoarthritis are definitely an important element behind many individual’s interrupted sleep, but researchers have found that the relationship among osteoarthritis and sleep is much more complex. Rather than OA causing insomnia, the two conditions are believed to coexist.

A 2012 study published in the journal SLEEP, evaluated the quality of sleep in people who reported symptoms of chronic pain, including those with osteoarthritis. The researchers found that the amount of pain individuals were in before going to bed had little to do with how well they slept through the night. Additionally, the study concluded that an individual’s sleep quality the night before predicted how much pain they would be in the next day. People who slept inadequately experienced more pain the following day, according to the research.

Researchers believe that a lack of sleep may actually produce inflammatory pathways which may aggravate arthritis pain. Michael V. Vitiello, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle stated, “Poor sleep can also make you more sensitive to the feeling of pain. It’s not that the disturbed sleep makes you achy per say, but the disturbed sleep changes your perception of pain.”

Furthermore, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) launched a study to further analyze the connection between pain in individuals with osteoarthritis and sleep. They would utilize overnight sleep studies to review the associations between sleep-inhibiting behaviors, sleep, and pain symptoms among people with OA of the knee.

“We hypothesize that people with osteoarthritis may engage in behaviors that are not conductive to sleep, which in turn may affect their perception of pain,” quoted study investigator Megan Ruiter Petrov, PhD, a postdoctoral associate now at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation. For instance, irregular sleeping schedules, napping throughout the day, watching TV or overeating before bed and keeping the bedroom noisy or uncomfortable, are all examples of behaviors which may greatly affect an individual’s sleep quality.
Many individuals frequently turn to medicine in order to find relief from their chronic pain symptoms as well as improve their sleep quality, but sleep aids and pain medicines can often have undesirable side effects. Instead, it’s recommended to practice several simple sleep hygiene strategies to naturally aid the individual’s sleep.

First, make sure not to eat a heavy meal before going to bed and avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol before bed. Consuming these before bed can cause discomfort during sleep. In some cases, because the stomach is forced to function excessively to digest a large meal before going to bed, many individuals can experience heartburn or acid reflux as a result, making falling asleep much more difficult. Moreover, do not watch TV in the bedroom and maintain your bedroom comfortably cool, quiet and dark. Doing these behaviors before bed can ultimately disrupt an individual’s sleep as well. For the people suffering from osteoarthritis, getting a good night’s slumber can go a long way to help you feel relief from your symptoms.

By Dr. Alex Jimenez

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