Proper Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain, Back Pain, Pinched Nerves and Sciatica / Dr. Mandell
7 Ways to Sleep Better With Ankylosing Spondylitis
Wake Up Well Rested
Getting a good night's sleep is something you can't take for granted when you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Symptoms such as pain, especially in the second half of the night, can result in poor-quality rest. Then, symptoms like stiffness can make your morning routine harder to manage, says Elyse Rubenstein, MD, a rheumatologist with Saint John's Health in Santa Monica, Calif. In fact, an October 2012 study in the journal "Arthritis Research and Therapy" found that sleep disturbances in those with AS can be related to depression, anxiety, nighttime pain, and back pain. However, you don't have to give up on quality sleep if you put these tips to use.
Call Your Rheumatologist
Difficulty sleeping and back pain at night are two symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis that need to be addressed by a doctor, says Eric Ruderman, MD, rheumatologist and professor of rheumatology in the department of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. If you experience them regularly, it may be a sign to check in with your rheumatologist. "You need to look at sleep problems as a clue that your ankylosing spondylitis isn't as well-controlled as you'd like it to be," he says.
Shrink the Size of Your Pillows
Dr. Rubenstein says that ankylosing spondylitis patients who sleep on large pillows may awake in the morning to find their head hunched forward when they stand up, similar to the way that the pillow propped up their head while sleeping. For this reason, she recommends using a thin pillow at night. You may even find it more comfortable to use no pillow at all to maintain better control of your posture.
Stop Propping Up Your Legs
After a long day of dealing with ankylosing spondylitis, it may be tempting to place a pillow under your legs to provide some back pain relief and better sleep, but resist the temptation. Rubenstein says that using a pillow to prop up your legs can alter your body position when you wake up, similar to the way that a large pillow behind your head can negatively affect your head and neck position.
Firm Up Your Mattress
As any mattress commercial on TV can tell you, the quality of your mattress can affect your sleep. A firm mattress is important to support your body's posture and ease pain; even a mattress overlay on top of your current mattress can help. Just don't rely on your mattress to correct all your nighttime woes. "All the mattresses in the world won't solve anything if you have fundamental issues with your back," Dr. Ruderman says. While it's important to have a good-quality mattress, if your nighttime pain persists, it's best to check in with your rheumatologist.
Plan for Enough Sleep
When you have ankylosing spondylitis, getting adequate sleep is even more important than it may be for other people, says Rubenstein. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the standard for adults is between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Create a better sleep habit by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. It also helps to make your bedroom a place of quiet relaxation, and keep out the TV, laptops, tablets, and other electronic gadgets.
Develop a Morning Routine to Ease Stiffness
If you can't sleep at night, don't fret — instead, try planning a morning routine to address ankylosing spondylitis symptoms like stiffness, back pain, and inflammation. Starting the day with stretching and movement — as well as using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications — can make your morning more pleasant, Rubenstein says. "Stretching is very important with ankylosing spondylitis, and morning is an ideal time to do it," Ruderman adds.
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