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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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Some symptoms of lupus and their causes

Lupus causes many symptoms, but here are a few. Again, this list isn’t all-inclusive. How can you figure out what causes a symptom? Often all you need to do is consider the powerful inflammatory action that lupus causes, or the ending ‘itis:’ inflammation

  • The malar rash (butterfly rash) is often the first thing that comes to mind when talking of the symptoms of lupus; but not everyone with lupus gets it. When the immune system mounts it attack on the skin (cutaneous lupus), the attack is either acute or chronic. If the attack is acute, (acute meaning it comes rapidly and ‘goes’ rapidly), you might see the classic “butterfly” rash. It is often referred to by doctors as ‘malar’ because of the location on the face where it occupies. Many also refer to it as the “butterfly rash” because it’s redness involves the bridge of the nose and the cheekbones, looking like the the body and wings of a butterfly.
  • fatigue: The precise cause of lupus-related fatigue isn’t known, but disease activity, pain, age, and medicines can contribute to fatigue caused by lupus. Lupus compromises your sleep and too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can result in flares of your symptoms. During these flares, you’re likely to be depressed that there is more pain and other symptoms seem worse. 
  • chest pain. The lung is lined by a membrane, the pleura. Inflammation of the pleura results in the pleura rubbing rubbing up against the lung causing pain. This pain is usually a pain on inspiration (when you breathe in), a pain which may mimic the chest pain of a heart attack. This pain should never be taken lightly and should be reported to your doctor immediately. Most people who have/or had lupus, have had an instance of this inflammation.
  • If the membrane surrounding and protecting the heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed, pericarditis can result. Symptoms of pericarditis often resemble those of a heart attack because there may be sharp, stabbing pain as the heart rubs agains the pericardium. There can also be a fast heart rate or a dry cough or shortness of breath. This should not be ignored.
  • chest pain: Another source of chest pain is called costochondritis. I was privileged (?) to have costochondritis once and it felt like I’d been kicked in the chest: by a horse! Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum. Recurring episodes of costochondritis often lead doctors to make a more thorough exam and a diagnosis of lupus follows.
  • shortness of breath in lupus can be caused by several things, too. If there is pleuritis (inflammation of the pleura, or pleuritis) pain of lupus is caused by pleuritic chest pain, the person might guard against the pain, by not taking deep breaths. Taking shallow breaths results in not getting enough air in the lungs; therefore shortness of breath.
  • headache. The most common type of headache in lupus is the tension or muscle tension headache which will usually ‘go away on its own’ or with over-the-counter analgesics. Lupus also causes migraine headaches which are much more prevalent in lupus sufferers than non-lupus sufferers. However, another kind of headache is more rare, but much more serious and indicative of a life-threatening complication., meningitis. It is due to inflammation of the meninges (membranes which encase the brain). Your physician should be aware of a headache that you have.

These are just a few symptoms of lupus, but for brevity’s sake, I didn’t discuss them all. I’ll discuss others in another post.

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But it hurts just to get out of bed-now exercise?

We all know that exercise has benefits. But when it comes to lupus and other autoimmune diseases, exercise that is non-weight bearing can be much more beneficial. In many cases that exercise is swimming, because there are very few risks involved.

Swimming decreases arthritis pain; but wait, it hurts to get up, get going and get into the pool. In a short few weeks, once you commit to making swimming part of your day, not just ‘squeezing it in when you have  nothing better to do,’ you’ll begin to notice the flexibility, anti-arthritic benefits of swimming. Eventually, as you stick with it and work up to it, swimming just a half hour a day will burn 476 .calories.

Why did I mention 476 calories? Well, every 3500 calories burned subtracts a pound from your weight. It only takes @7 x 30 minute swim sessions to lose that pound. So, swimming 30 minutes is too much? Start at 10 or 15 minutes and before you know it, you’ve worked your way up to 30 minutes or an hour. If you can swim one hour for 3 1/2 times, you’d lose that same pound. And we all know that weight increases the load on our joints. Even the loss of 5# can make a different to those with arthritic problems of the knees and hips.

The most important thing; SET A GOAL FOR YOURSELF THAT IS REALISTIC. If you know you can knock off 30 minutes easily, set a goal of 45 minutes or 1 hour. But if you’re relatively new to swimming, think small. Take a water aerobics class to get used to the water and get your heart and lungs used to the work; then try a 15 minute swim. Do 15 minutes for a while and then try 25 or 30 minutes.

Inquire and see if your health insurance company offers Silver Sneakers benefits, a program for those who are 65, have Medicare Advantage Plans or Medicare Supplement plans. You can check your eligibility here Most benefits are free and at many ‘Y’s and health clubs, such as ‘Curves™’ ‘Bally’s.™’ Many swim to decrease joint pain, one of the major benefits of swimming.

 

exercise pools

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