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Sleeping with arthritis at night is never easy. However, the importance of sleep for arthritis sufferers cannot be overstated. Just with any condition, rest and recuperation is essential for recovery and the management of symptoms.

Studies state that 80% of arthritis sufferers suffer from sleep deprivation. This is in part due to the pain arthritis sufferers feel in the morning, and as a result, prefer to wake up and get out of bed rather than lie in bed for longer periods of time.

This is not medically recommended as sleep deprivation has a direct effect by worsening your symptoms. If your arthritis pain at night or as you wake up is excruciating, your condition is not well managed enough and you need to see a doctor to change your management plan – this could be the introduction of another medication or one at a higher dose.  

In terms of nighttime arthritis pain, studies suggest sleeping with arthritis hip pain to be the most difficult. As well as managing your condition better, your doctor can also prescribe other preparations to help you with your sleep, leading to an overall healthier lifestyle and decreased burden from arthritis. In fact, the relationship between arthritis and sleep is simple: poor arthritis control worsens sleep quality, and poor sleep quality worsens how you experience your symptoms.

We have put together a few tips for you that we hope you find useful:

1. See a Doctor!

Very obvious but often neglected is the issue of sleep in medical consultations. As well as making sure that you are receiving the right dose of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory drugs (e.g ibuprofen and methotrexate) to manage your arthritis at night, doctors can prescribe you very mild sedating tablets to help you with your sleep. This ranges from sedating antihistamines (e.g piriton) to ‘’Z’’ drugs (e.g zopiclone or zolpidem) to benzodiazepines (Valium (Diazepam). Developing better sleep hygiene is paramount to conquering the ailment of arthritis and keeps you fresh throughout the day

2. Caffeine use

A lot of people rely on caffeine to get through their day. This is usually consumed in the form of coffees/espressos/coca-cola.  It is important to be aware of the amount that you are consuming as well as the time of day you are taking it. It is not advisable to drink any caffeine containing beverages after 6pm. If regulated, this will make a huge difference in your sleep, your sleep hygiene and ultimately sleeping with arthritis.

3. Sleep scheduling

Another aspect of sleep that is not emphasized enough is the regular schedule of sleeping. It is of utmost importance that you sleep and wake up at around the same time everyday. This is almost more important than the amount that you actually sleep. Try keeping a strict schedule on your sleeping habits e.g sleeping from 12-7 or 11-7. It is important to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every evening to be refreshed for the next day. As one gets older, the number of sleep hours increase and it is advisable for those over 60 to sleep between 8-10 hours a night. What may be useful is to keep a sleep diary and note down the times you go to bed and wake up everyday!

4. Exercise

Research shows that those who exercise regularly have better sleeping habits and better sleep hygiene. It is important to stay active if you have arthritis but also be aware of your own body limitations. Try exercise for 30mins – 2hours every single day. This can be in the form of, running, playing a sport or even walking. There are many clever devices out in the current market that tracks the number of steps you do a day (including your phone!) – be healthy and aim for 10,000 steps every single day as a target. You will see a huge difference in your life as a result. Of course if your arthritis hip pain at night or knee pain is keeping you up, running or walking may not be a practical form of exercise for you. Try swimming as this limits the stress going through your joints.

5. Wind down

Insomnia is common in arthritis sufferers. It is very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep if your mind is thinking of all the stressors in your life. It is important to have a period of at least 45 minutes where you wind down before bed. Do a relaxing activity such as watching some TV or reading a book – this helps to ease your mind and body as your body winds down before bed. Do this every night before bed and notice a huge difference to your life and sleep. Yoga and Mindfulness exercises have also shown to be beneficial and these may even benefit your arthritis pain at night!

6. Sleep apnoea

A common condition affecting the public is obstructive sleep apnoea. As a result of this, we wake up tired and feel lethargic through the day. If your partner notices that you are a heavy snorer or ‘catch your breath’’ when you sleep in the evenings, it is important to get this properly investigated.  Diagnosing and curing OSA can make a huge difference to your sleep quality and energy levels the following day.  

Follow our tips above to lead to tackle your sleep problems and notice a positive difference in your life and the management of your arthritis.



Medically reviewed by Dr Adam Gunasekara. He is the Co-Founder of Doctor Arthritis. He graduated from The Imperial College London with an MBBS (MD) - The article was written by the Dr. Arthritis Editorial Team.

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