Surprising Reasons You Can’t Sleep If You Have RA

Cranky, tired and foggy because you can’t get your eight hours of shut-eye due to the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis? We’re here to help!

Gabrielle Lichterman
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By now you know not to exercise right before bedtime, to keep your bedroom nice and dark and the temperature a cool 68 degrees, but if you’re still tossing and turning, a sneakier culprit may be to blame for your restless nights. 

Recent research reveals four surprising sleep-stealers that could be thwarting your slumber. Your bedroom might be...

Too quiet
Being kept awake at night by a racket—snoring coming from a mate or pet? Traffic or a neighbor’s loud music? Your room may need to generate some noise of its own!
Easy fix: Fill your bedroom with “white” noise—such as the whir of a fan, a gentle waterfall from a sound machine, soothing music or even a recording of a dull speech.
Why it works: Our brains are designed to sleep best when surrounded by continuous sound. “We tend to be more sensitive to changes in volume and pitch,” explains Tracey I. Marks, MD, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Atlanta. This is why white noise doesn’t disturb your sleep, yet snoring, car horns and other intermittent sounds can keep you up. 

Too comfy
Your 1,000-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and pillowcases may be soft as a feather, but if you’re coughing, sneezing or wheezing through the night, they may be to blame. The reason: Your bed could be among the one in four with high levels of dust mites lurking in pillows, mattresses and other bedding. These microscopic insects feed off skin cells you shed and then produce proteins that trigger allergies and asthma, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). 
Easy fix: Switch to allergen-proof bedding. When scientists from NIEHS, the University of Washington and Harvard University studied how to reduce dust-mite concentrations in people’s beds, they found this simple switch—combined with weekly laundering of sheets and pillowcases in hot water—was most effective.
Why it works: These specially made sheets, pillowcases and mattress covers are made from tightly woven fabric that puts a protective barrier between you and dust mites. They also starve the creatures of skin flakes and water from humidity in the air, which they need to survive. 

Too boring
How many times have you been told to simply “count sheep” when you can’t sleep? Lots, right? Well, a recent study at the University of Oxford reveals that counting sheep (or anything else) can actually keep you awake! 
Easy fix: Imagine gentle ocean waves, a trickling stream or another soothing nature scene. Insomniacs who did this fell asleep 20 minutes faster than on nights when they counted sheep or didn’t picture nature images.
Why it works: Counting is just too boring to hold your attention, says lead study author Allison Harvey, PhD. So you end up thinking about your worries, which prompts a cascade of wake-you-up hormones. Instead, nature scenes are so engrossing they distract you from sleep-robbing concerns. 

April 2013