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.

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SOURCES:

Journal of Clinical Rheumatology

 

The Lupus Foundation of America

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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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