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Sleeping with Joint Pain

Joint pain can have a big impact on your life, even affecting how well you sleep at night. You may feel like your joints hurt more at night than they do during the day, or you may struggle to find a sleeping position that feels comfortable.

While the solution to your sleep issues might not be as easy as going to bed earlier, there are ways you can achieve a better night’s rest.

Why do my joints hurt more at night?

You are not imagining it – you may feel more aches and pains in your joints at night. People with arthritis or joint problems tend to face more sleep issues because their affected joints keep them up or wake them throughout the night.

The most common reason pain may appear stronger at night is because the body releases less cortisol when it is asleep. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone that the body naturally produces. Lower levels typically lead to increased pain and inflammation. Additionally, when you are laying down, inflammatory chemicals pool in the fluid that cushions your joints, causing them to stiffen up throughout the night.

It is also possible that your perception of pain is higher at night because you do not have anything to distract your mind with. During the day, you are usually busy working, reading, watching television, or doing other activities. But when you are trying to sleep and there is nothing else to focus on, it can be difficult to ignore your pain.

Tips for Better Sleep with Joint Pain

The good news is there are ways you can sleep better at night, despite your joint pain. Try experimenting with your nightly routine to find what works best for you.

Exercising and Stretching to Relieve Joint Stress

Make sure to be active throughout your day. It may sound like the last thing you want to do when you are achy, but short exercise routines can alleviate pain, burn energy, and allow you to get a better night’s sleep.

You can also try stretching before bed to relieve any tightness built up in your joints during the day. Hamstring and calf stretches, low back stretches, and neck stretches are all great ways to relieve joint stress.

Heat, Ice, and Medicine for Joint Pain

Experiment with ice and heat. Joints that are inflamed tend to respond better to ice, while muscles that are sore tend to respond better to heat. But everyone is different, and you may find that one option works better than the other when it comes to your joint pain.

If you are able, you can also take anti-inflammatory medication before bedtime. Make sure you allow enough time for the medicine to kick in before you want to sleep. Most people take it an hour or two before they get ready for bed.

Try These Sleeping Positions for More Restful Sleep

Think about how you sleep at night. Do you sleep on your back? Do you sleep on your side with your knees touching? Depending on the position, you could be adding more pressure to your arthritic joints.

Always try to avoid sleeping on your stomach no matter which joint is causing pain. This position puts too much stress on your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

Sleeping Positions for Ankle Pain

Sleeping on your back is the best position for ankle pain. Add a pillow length wise under your foot, ankle, and calf to make sure your painful joint is supported. If you are a side sleeper, do not sleep on the side with the arthritic ankle. In this position, you should also put a thin pillow between your ankles for support and so they do not bump together in the night.

Sleeping Positions for Knee and Hip Pain

The best position to sleep when you have knee or hip pain is on your back with a pillow under your knees. You can also try sleeping with a neck pillow or rolled up towel under your neck to better align your spine.

If you sleep on your side, make sure you are on the side that does not have the affected joint. Put a thin, firm pillow between your knees to cushion your joints and prevent any added stress.

Sleeping Positions for Shoulder Pain

If you have shoulder pain, the best position to sleep is on your back with a thin pillow under your arthritic shoulder. Side sleepers should lay on the side without the painful joint. In either position, add a thin pillow under your shoulder to cushion it and ease joint stress during the night.

If painful arthritis in your joints is keeping you awake and you are considering joint replacement, Sauk Prairie Healthcare's Joint Health Center can help.

To schedule an appointment, call the Orthopedics Nurse Navigator at 608-643-7689.