O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature’s soft nurse…
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy slept in this morning. I hoped that by adding a few extra hours of sleep I might be able to charge my batteries a little bit more. That’s not how things ended up working out. Still, I was happy to be able to get the extra rest.
While I have always tried to make sure I get enough sleep in terms of quantity, I really haven’t looked too closely at the quality of my sleep – until recently. Looking back, I have no doubt that my rheumatoid arthritis has been having a negative affect on my restorative sleep for quite some time.
I have no problems whatsoever actually falling asleep – as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am usually out within fifteen minutes, if not sooner. My sleep patterns are pretty routine, except for the slight variation that one might expect on the weekend. And I usually wake up, without an alarm clock, at around the same time each morning. (Although my dogs do act somewhat as an alarm clock – it’s amazing the internal clock these pups have, especially when it comes to feeding time!)
It seems that the problems come when I an actually “asleep”. Take last night as a reference point. I woke up at least once an hour. These aren’t full wake ups, as I turn over and fall back asleep in the matter of minutes, but they are wake ups nonetheless – and they are probably preventing me from entering into my deep sleep cycles.
The tell tale sign comes when I actually wake up, though. More often than not, I wake up more tired than when I went to sleep.
I started thinking a bit more about sleep, and asked myself: How much sleep does a superhero need? This is what I found.
“I know that in the Dan Jurgen’s novel Death and Return of Superman it was mentioned that he needs only one hour a night, not to rest his body but to dream (for sanity’s sake).”
“[Superman] doesn’t need to sleep, but he can induce it upon himself.”
Darn, I ended up in those comic book forum once again! Gotta stop doing that… (You should give it a try sometime – really – you wouldn’t believe some of the conversations that you’ll come across!)
So, I found a source that seems to be a little more appropriate to the situation. Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a Johns Hopkins Press Health Book (and the best resource I have found yet on living with rheumatoid arthritis).
Individuals with RA require more rest than they did before they developed the condition. Adequate rest takes many forms, including physical, emotional, and “local” rest (described below).
Getting adequate sleep is imperative, because sleep provides healing to the body and the mind. We recommend ten hours of sleep daily, particularly during periods when the arthritis is flared up. You may prefer to sleep eight hours at night, and take two one-hour naps during the day. If getting adequate sleep provides difficult, ask your doctor to recommend or prescribe pain or sleeping medications to help you.
Actual sleep is not the only way to rest physically and emotionally. Taking a fifteen- or twenty-minute break in the morning and afternoon can also make an incredible difference in productivity. Learning and performing stress reduction and relaxation techniques during tense times may be particularly beneficial. During these breaks try to relax your mind and body. If you can manage to lie down with your feet elevated, you’ll increase the benefits of the break. Deep breathing exercises can also markedly reduce fatigue, particularly if combined with meditation. Taking prescribed breaks routinely each day may allow you to avoid the severe exhaustion that occurs when you become overly fatigued.
From time to time it’s good to reflect on the day’s activities. Think about what you did during the day and when you felt most tired. This review will allow you to schedule your rest breaks strategically, which will help you avoid becoming overtired. If necessary, discuss these recommendations with your employer; he or she will probably agree that this is time well spent. It is to everyone’s benefit for you to retain your energy so you can be as efficient and productive as possible.
Local rest means resting specific parts of the body. Getting local rest helps you protect your joints from undue stress; this can be achieved by wearing splints. which can be fabricated to protect the wrists and hands, and by using techniques designed to reduce joint stress.
Starting today, I plan to implement the suggestions described above. I am already doing many of the activities, but on a more piecemeal basis. Maybe if I perform them with more regularity and mindfulness, the result might be that my energy levels start topping out just a little more closer to full.
What are some techniques that have helped you deal with the fatigue of living with rheumatoid arthritis? And more specifically, what has helped you overcome the difficulties that are raised by not being able to achieve restorative sleep during the night?
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!