Sleep and Autoimmune Diseases


It’s no secret that one thing people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia need is sleep. But for many of us who suffer from these diseases, that can be much more difficult than it sounds. Johns Hopkins’ Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment information page says rheumatoid arthritis  patients “often need over ten hours of sleep a night, or eight hours a night and a two-hour nap during the day.”

Seriously? A 10 hours of sleep a night? That would be a dream. Between not being able to fall asleep and waking up in pain one or more times each night, I’d be lucky to say I get 6 hours of sleep each night. I do have the luxury of napping during the week on most days and that keeps me going, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

I wake up exhausted, no matter how many hours of sleep I have had. My rheumatologist reminds me at every visit that sleep deprivation can lower resistance and increase flares in patients with autoimmune issues. I’m not arguing that. I’m just saying sleep eludes me most of the time.

I’ve tried tea that is supposed to help you sleep, natural remedies like valerian root and melatonin. I’ve always used over-the-counter drugs to help you sleep, as well as prescription drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. While I do have an active prescription for Ambien, I don’t use it that often. If I’ve had three or four nights with very little sleep, I will break down an take one. The problem I have (well, one of them) is that I wake up even more groggy than usual. I won’t even get into the numerous phone conversations and online shopping excursions I’ve had on Ambien, which I have no recollection of.

I get made fun of for my morning or afternoon naps, but I honestly don’t know how I could make it through without them. I don’t have a normal tired feeling. It’s possible that people who don’t suffer from autoimmune issues don’t understand our kind of exhaustion. I’m not just tired, I am ready to fall over and can’t keep my eyes open.

I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a lot of new people through this blog and I’m wondering what you do to help with sleep. I’d also like to hear if you wake up with a numb sort of pain. This is new for me in the past month or so. I wake up and my whole arm is numb, but it hurts terribly. I’ve had the “maybe you’re sleeping on it wrong” suggestions, but it’s not that. It’s a stiffness through the elbow that causes a pain down through my fingers. I am basically unable to use the arm for at least the first 20-30 minutes of my day. Is this common?

As always, I’d love to hear from you. If you have any great ideas to help me (and other readers) fall asleep, please share. Knowledge is power and there is strength in numbers. It’s important to gain strength from others fighting the same fight.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. twistedrandall
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 04:18:45

    I was having alot of trouble sleeping too, and still do sometimes. I notice any little pressure on all my joints, then they ache and then throb. Some of that I think might be in my head because I am now ticked off I can’t sleep. I have gotten myself a memory foam mattress topper and that has helped a ton. I also take advil or aleve every night even if I am not in pain. It seems to help with the morning stiffies. (Probably not the best thing to call it but I think it is funny because I am a dork like that, lol)
    As far as the numbness, (don’t get mad now) part of it may be how you sleep. Your joints are swollen and that leaves less room for the nerves. It then causes your arm to fall asleep causing pain. I have even joked around with a friend and said, I have had my arms my whole life, why are they in the way now? Why can’t I figure out where they go now? I actually sleep cross armed now even if I do look weird.


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