Most people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints, have sleep problems. While it is hard to pin down exactly how many people living with rheumatoid arthritis are affected, some studies have suggested that 60 to 70 percent have some sort of problem with sleep. Suffice it to say, it’s more common than not.

Poor Sleep Connected to Worse Health-Related Quality of Life

There is a cyclical association between pain, fatigue, disability, and sleep problems, as you might expect. According to a study published online in January 2018 in the journal BMJ Open, people with rheumatoid arthritis have worse health-related quality of life (HRQoL) compared with those living with other rheumatic diseases or healthy persons. Even when rheumatoid arthritis is considered well-controlled, health-related quality of life can still be poor. While many factors affect health-related quality of life, people with rheumatoid arthritis point to sleep disturbance as a primary contributing factor.

What’s Considered Bad Sleep? The Definition of Sleep Disturbance

Sleep disturbance refers to insufficient total sleep time, sleep that leaves you unrefreshed, or frequent awakening. While it can be a consequence of pain, fatigue, and disease activity, there are other causes too, including sleep apneaor restless legs syndrome.

How Sleeping Impacts Your Body And Your Pain

During sleep, important bodily functions occur, such as rest, information processing, memory, buildup of molecules and cells, and circadian rhythm. Inadequate sleep has a negative impact on body processes. Each of the processes impacts pain level, too.

Managing Sleep Problems: What Patients Say and What Doctors Think

For many people with rheumatoid arthritis, managing sleep problems is as challenging as managing pain — especially because of their interconnectedness. “I’d say I have moderate sleep issues since RA,” reports Paula Mair of Woodbury, Minnesota. “I have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and, at times, waking up is a bear!”

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