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The Importance of Sleep if you Have Lupus

Sleep is essential for overall well-being and it plays a vital role in improving both physical & mental performance, and the quality of our lives.

Quality sleep boosts our mood, focus & attention span, memory, creativity, immune system, and curbs inflammation, depression and anxiety.

But for people suffering from chronic illnesses, the importance of sleep can’t be over-stated. A 2009 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people in poor health who do not get enough sleep, exercise & work less efficiently when compared to people in good health.

Lupus is a disease of remissions (symptoms improve and you feel better) and exacerbations (symptoms worsen and you feel ill). The most common symptoms of exacerbations (or flares) are fatigue, pain and inflammation and they are are commonly triggered by stress and chronic lack of sleep. Therefore, it is very important for a person suffering from lupus not to cut corners and to sleep the recommended 7-8 hours every day.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 50 to 60 percent of lupus sufferers experience poor sleep and suffer from sleep related problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea. In another study, it was found that lupus patients have more sleep problems than people in normal health. This is a serious issue as lack of or poor sleep can further weaken the immune system and cause worsening of lupus symptoms such as inflammation, pain and cognitive dysfunction. Anxiety and depression were also common. Here are a few tips to improve sleep to prevent lupus flares.

Make sleep a priority

Make sleep a priority in your life. Often, in today’s world, sleep is too often seen as an unnecessary waste of time, resulting in our putting other activities taking priority over sleep. Too often and to frequently, we prioritize our work, family, social life and even regular household chores over sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation also found that only about 40 percent of Americans feel that sleep is as important as exercise or eating well to overall health and well-being. Once we know the importance of sleep in our lives; then we can go about the business of making it a priority.

Be Evaluated by a Sleep Expert

If you are facing long term sleep problems that have lasted a few weeks or you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness then it’s important that you obtain an evaluation from a sleep expert. This can also help to figure out if a medical condition unrelated to lupus such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, is the real culprit behind your sleep problems.

Schedule your Sleep

Set a bedtime schedule and follow it strictly even on weekends. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every day. This way your body clock will also adjust to your sleep schedule, making you easier to fall asleep close to bedtime.

Napping

A short afternoon nap can really help to alleviate fatigue and refresh you. But be wary of taking long naps as they might leave you sluggish for the rest of the day and awake at night, and can disrupt your regular sleep schedule.

Exercise

Exercise, playing a sport or any physical activity for that matter improves the quality of your sleep. According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people who exercise regularly report sleeping better as compared to those who don’t exercise even if they get the same amount of sleep. So take out at least 20-30 minutes for physical activity every day. Also, it’s important to exercise 5-6 hours before bedtime.

Indulge In Sleep Inducing Foods

Diet really affects your sleep so it’s important to make healthy dinner choices that can promote a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine rich drinks such as coffee, tea and cola drinks. Also stay away from alcohol which is more of a sleep disrupter and results in poor quality fragmented sleep. Instead go for sleep inducing foods such as milk, turkey, lettuce, cherries and other options.

Meditate

Meditation is a great way to unwind after a hectic, stressful day to prepare for sleep. According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness meditation can significantly improve sleep quality and daytime impairment.

Steer Clear of Electronic Devices

Avoid watching movies, checking your emails or playing any video games at least 30 minutes before bedtime and shut off any electronic devices such as your laptop, tablet and phone if you want to get good sleep. The light from these screens send the wrong messages to your brain, keeping it alert and leaving you sleepless.

Unwind before bed

Include something relaxing to you, such as reading, a warm bath, inducing essential oils or any other relaxing activity right before bed to help you settle for sleep.

Set the Scene

Turn off the lights, wear comfortable clothing and control your room temperature. Research suggests that a temperature between 16 – 18 degree centigrade is perfect to help you fall asleep.

These tips should help you to take control of your sleep to avoid any lupus flares; but If sleep problems persist, it’s best to consult your rheumatologist.

About the Author
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on Sleep and Room Temperature. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.

Sources:

The Lupus Foundation of America magazine

The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology

Sleeping Too Hot? Try These Cool Ideas

 

 

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Lupus and the Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential for overall well-being and it plays a vital role in improving both physical & mental performance, and the quality of our lives.

Quality sleep boosts our mood, focus & attention span, memory, creativity, immune system, and curbs inflammation, depression and anxiety.

But for people suffering from chronic illnesses like lupus, sleep is ever more critical. This can’t be under-stated. A 2009 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people in poor health who do not get enough sleep, exercise & work less efficiently when compared to people in good health.

Lupus is a disease of remissions (symptoms improve and you feel better) and exacerbations (symptoms worsen and you feel ill). The most common symptoms of exacerbations, or flares, are fatigue, pain and inflammation and they are are commonly triggered by stress and chronic lack of sleep. Therefore, it is very important for a person suffering from lupus not to cut corners and to sleep the recommended 7-8 hours every day.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 50 to 60 percent of lupus sufferers either experience poor sleep or suffer from sleep related problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea. In another study, it was found that lupus patients have more sleep problems than people in normal health. This is a serious issue as lack of or poor sleep can further weaken the immune system and cause worsening of lupus symptoms such as inflammation, pain and cognitive dysfunction. Anxiety and depression were also common. Here are a few tips to improve sleep to prevent lupus flares.

Make sleep a priority

Make sleep a priority in your life. Often, in today’s world, sleep is too often seen as an unnecessary waste of time, resulting in our putting other activities taking priority over sleep. Too often and to frequently, we prioritize our work, family, social life and even regular household chores over sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation also found that only about 40 percent of Americans feel that sleep is as important as exercise or eating well to overall health and well-being. Once we know the importance of sleep in our lives; then we can go about the business of making it a priority.

Be Evaluated by a Sleep Expert

If you are facing long term sleep problems that have lasted a few weeks or you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness then it’s important that you obtain an evaluation from a sleep expert. This can also help to figure out if a medical condition unrelated to lupus such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, is the real culprit behind your sleep problems.

Schedule your Sleep

Set a bedtime schedule and follow it strictly even on weekends. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every day. This way your body clock will also adjust to your sleep schedule, making you easier to fall asleep close to bedtime.

Napping

A short afternoon nap can really help to alleviate fatigue and refresh you. But be wary of taking long naps as they might leave you sluggish for the rest of the day and awake at night, and can disrupt your regular sleep schedule.

Exercise

Exercise, playing a sport or any physical activity for that matter improves the quality of your sleep. According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people who exercise regularly report sleeping better as compared to those who don’t exercise even if they get the same amount of sleep. So take out at least 20-30 minutes for physical activity every day. Also, it’s important to exercise 5-6 hours before bedtime.

Indulge In Sleep Inducing Foods

Diet really affects your sleep so it’s important to make healthy dinner choices that can promote a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine rich drinks such as coffee, tea and cola drinks. Also stay away from alcohol which is more of a sleep disrupter and results in poor quality fragmented sleep. Instead go for sleep inducing foods such as milk, turkey, lettuce, cherries and other options.

Meditate

Meditation is a great way to unwind yourself after a long hectic stressful day and prepare yourself for sleep. According to a recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine and conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California, mindfulness meditation can significantly improve sleep quality and daytime impairment.

Steer Clear of Electronic Devices

Avoid watching movies, checking your emails or playing any video games at least 30 minutes before bedtime and shut off any electronic devices such as your laptop, tablet and phone if you want to get good sleep. The light from these screens send the wrong messages to your brain, keeping it alert and leaving you sleepless.

Unwind before bed

You can include a daily relaxing act such as reading, a warm bath with sleep inducing essential oils or any other relaxing activity right before bed to help you settle for sleep.

Set the Scene

Turn off the lights, wear comfortable clothing and control your room temperature. Research suggests that a temperature between 16 – 18 degree centigrade is perfect to help you fall asleep.

These tips should help you to take control of your sleep to avoid any lupus flares; but If sleep problems persist, it’s best to consult your rheumatologist.

SOURCES:

Journal of Clinical Rheumatology

 

The Lupus Foundation of America

Sleeping Too Hot? Try These Cool Ideas

About the Author
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on Sleep and Room Temperature. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.

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Inflammation

For a long time, I’ve made posts long and lengthy. Then I realized, when I’m surfing the net, do I like to read a dictionary? an encyclopedia? No, short, sweet and to the point. So, starting today, it is short, sweet and to the point. Let’s start with  inflammation. In lupus, whenever something is inflamed, it’s usually related to-though not always; lupus.

Inflammation of most organ. or parts of organs is seen by us as redness and swelling, or hot, and painful. Redness can mean many things. not always lupus. Continue reading

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What can we do to prevent or care for flares?

Sometimes we can’t do anything to prevent flares, but when we can, doesn’t doing something to prevent flares make sense?  Here is a list of things that we can and should do to prevent or care for ourselves during flares. My commentary is in red letters after each bulleted point which discusses well-recognized and common-sensical approaches to things that we can do to manage flares:

  • Learn to recognize the warning signals of YOUR flares and tell your doctor about them.‘Knowledge is power’ and the lupus patient who is more-informed about his illness and is a partner with his physician tends to have a better outcome.
  • Be sure to check with the doctor who manages your lupus, (often a rheumatologist) before receiving any immunization. There can be ‘ingredients’ in immunization solutions which cause the immune system to over-react or to which an individual might be allergic. It is our responsibility to know what OUR particular triggers are and to what WE react. This gives patients power.
  • Maintain your physical health. Be sure to visit your doctor regularly, even if you are feeling well. Schedule regular dental, eye, and gynecological exams. This  is one way in which your doctor know that you’re serious about managing your illness, and being a partner with your doctor. 
  • Get enough sleep and rest. Be flexible with your schedule. Pacing your activities allows for more rest. Rest recharges the immune system and allows for more normal functioning and fewer flares.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Only your doctor can make suggestions regarding changes or additions to your diet, but it is generally accepted that all Americans need supplementation at times: Vitamin D3 for bone health and immune system health is just one example, and a good multivitamin is another example.
  • Try to limit your stress. Because this may be hard to do at times, consider developing a plan for dealing with potentially stressful situations. Develop a support system that includes family, friends, medical or nursing professionals, community organizations, and support groups. Remember, it helps to talk to someone when you’re feeling stressed. There are unexpected stressors in our lives that we can’t control. We CAN’T control the boss who has a bad day and ‘takes it out on us.’) What we CAN control is our reaction to our boss-if we allow him to ‘GET TO US!’
  • Participate in a well-planned exercise program to help maintain physical fitness and reduce stress. Exercise has been shown to decrease our stress level and feeling of well-being as well as WELL-BEINGBe careful when trying any over-the-counter preparations used on your skin or scalp. First, determine whether you have a sensitivity or an allergy to it. Put a small amount of the preparation on the inside of your forearm or on the back of your ear. If any redness, rash, raised areas, itching, or pain develops, do not use the preparation. These are new medications and new medications have the potential to trigger a flare.
  • Talk with your doctor before you stop taking any prescribed medications. Starting or stopping medications can be another trigger for a flare. 
  • Limit your exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet light, such as fluorescent or halogen lights. We spoke in the last 2 posts on triggers how exposure to ultraviolet light can trigger a flare.
  • Tell your doctor right away about any injury, illness, or infection or if you do not feel well in any way. Your rheumatologist can’t help you if you aren’t completely honest with him. Doctors can’t be certain what you have tried and succeeded in managing symptoms.
  • Delay elective surgery (including dental surgery and teeth pulling) until your lupus is under control or in remission. Any surgery is a stress on your system and a system that is under stress is more likely to flare.
  • Lupus may cause problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. As a result, women with lupus should carefully plan any pregnancy. Do not stop using your method of birth control until you have discussed the possibility of pregnancy with your doctor and he or she has determined that you are healthy enough to become pregnant. Pregnancy places a stress on your system and pregnancy can have vascular complications.
  • Check with your doctor or nurse before taking any over-the-counter medications. As discussed before, there are over the counter preparations which can make lupus symptoms worse, like Echinacea.
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Flares and their Triggers

First, this is a recap of previously agreed upon flare triggers:

Do you notice a trend; I do! I see that anything that places a stress on your system and requires that your body physically or emotionally adjust to a new set of circumstances has the potential to cause a flare of your symptoms.

So, how can each of the above triggers, throw you into a flare of your symptoms?  All of them put a physical or emotional stress on your system, but there are additional ways worth mentioning

  • not enough rest: Sleep deprivation is harmful to the immune system HOW? T cells are decreased when we get too little rest and when T cells are decreased or are decreasing, the body has a harder time fighting infection.
  • pregnancy places a stress on the body and if women become pregnant 6-8 months after symptoms become quiescent, they’re are less likely to develop a lupus flare during pregnancy. This means they need to plan pregnancies
  • when lupus patients have infections, they are likely to be started on medications. If you remember, STARTING a medication is an adjustment the body needs to make and rapidly starting a medication can trigger a flare
  • when people are overworked, they get too little sleep which can worsen their symptoms
  • emotional stress often causes us not to be able to sleep, to lie awake thrashing. When we don’t get enough sleep, T cells of the immune system have a harder time fighting infection.
  • ultraviolet light can trigger a flare Normally, an intact immune system rids us of aging or dying skin cells. Because sunburn can cause cell death and enough sunburn can cause enough inflammation so that more than ‘a simple’ sunburn results. UV rays can cause enough inflammation so that not just the skin, but the joints, muscles and internal organs are affected. FLARE
  • surgery: is a physical stress on the system and an emotional stress on the body, both of which trigger flares. Also, surgery can introduce medications (like antibiotics or anesthetics) not taken before, which can trigger a lupus flare. A cortisone injection (intravenous or intramuscular) is sometimes given.
  • viruses cause trigger lupus flares because they are a kind of infection and exposure to any infection causes the immune system to work ‘overtime.’

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to prevent flares, but knowing what can cause flares and how flares are triggered, gives some ideas as to how they can be managed. We’ll address that in another post.

 

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Triggers and how they cause flares

First, this is a recap of previously agreed upon flare triggers:

Do you notice a trend; I do! I see that anything that places a stress on your system and requires that your body physically or emotionally adjust to a new set of circumstances has the potential to cause a flare of your symptoms.

So, how can each of the above triggers, throw you into a flare of your symptoms?  All of them put a physical or emotional stress on your system, but there are additional ways worth mentioning

  • not enough rest: Sleep deprivation is harmful to the immune system HOW? T cells are decreased when we get too little rest and when T cells are decreased or are decreasing, the body has a harder time fighting infection.
  • pregnancy places a stress on the body and if women become pregnant 6-8 months after symptoms become quiescent, they’re are less likely to develop a lupus flare during pregnancy. This means they need to plan pregnancies
  • when lupus patients have infections, they are likely to be started on medications. If you remember, STARTING a medication is an adjustment the body needs to make and rapidly starting a medication can trigger a flare
  • when people are overworked, they get too little sleep which can worsen their symptoms
  • emotional stress often causes us not to be able to sleep, to lie awake thrashing. When we don’t get enough sleep, T cells of the immune system have a harder time fighting infection.
  • ultraviolet light can trigger a flare Normally, an intact immune system rids us of aging or dying skin cells. Because sunburn can cause cell death and enough sunburn can cause enough inflammation so that more than ‘a simple’ sunburn results. UV rays can cause enough inflammation so that not just the skin, but the joints, muscles and internal organs are affected. FLARE
  • surgery: is a physical stress on the system and an emotional stress on the body, both of which trigger flares. Also, surgery can introduce medications (like antibiotics or anesthetics) not taken before, which can trigger a lupus flare. A cortisone injection (intravenous or intramuscular) is sometimes given.
  • viruses cause trigger lupus flares because they are a kind of infection and exposure to any infection causes the immune system to work ‘overtime.’

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to prevent flares, but knowing what can cause flares and how flares are triggered, gives some ideas as to how they can be managed. We’ll address that in another post.

 

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Those evil flares

The title is a pretty short question which begs a pretty short answer. But, that begs the question, WHAT IS A FLARE? A flare is an exacerbation of the lupus symptoms that are normally experienced. But it is important to remember that what causes a flare of my symptoms may be completely different than what causes your flares.

Lupus symptoms can wax and wane, come and go: or be quiescent. Physicians are hesitant to use the term, “in remission,” because the term can connote that lupus is a CURABLE disease which it is not.

Flares might be triggered by one or MORE of the situations that we encounter in everyday life. Some common ones, in no particular order, are:

Researchers and practioners tend to agree that these are bonafide triggers of a flare. But again, it needs to be remembered that what triggers my flares may be, and likely is, different than the cause of yours. In another post we’ll talk about how each of these can cause a flare.

 

 

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