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I cannot wait to share this sponsored post with you! When fellow blogger James from SustainablePlanet.ca. asked me to share his new tips on sleeping better with lupus, I was so excited because I knew that you would love it!
What is lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s organs and tissues.
Widespread inflammation caused by lupus can affect your skin, joints, organs, brain and blood cells. For this reason, lupus is characterised by a variety of symptoms all over the body, including weight loss, kidney disease, mouth ulcers, swollen ankles, skin rashes, achy joints, chest pain, fever, fatigue, and sleep disorders.
Lupus and Sleep
It has been estimated that around 61% of people with lupus report that they do not feel refreshed after a night of sleep. If you have lupus, you may notice that you have restless sleep, or a poor quality of sleep. You may have problems falling asleep, or can’t stay asleep for a long enough duration. You may find it difficult to fall back into a deep sleep after waking up at night.
Lying awake at night thinking about how you are not sleeping can actually make the problem worse, too. The more you worry about your lack of sleep, the more aware you are that you are still awake – the less likely you are going to drift off.
Luckily, there are things you can do to help you sleep better with lupus. Read on for some of our top tips for sleeping soundly through the night.
1. Stop using “blue light” before bedtime
There are a number of common tech devices of today that emit something called blue light. This light inhibits your body’s natural ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle. When melatonin would usually trigger us to feel sleepy before bed, overexposure to blue light can block melatonin’s release. The only way to avoid messing with your sleep cycle is to stay away from blue light, from televisions or phone screens, before bed.
2. Keep your room cool and dark
Your sleeping environment is more important than you might think. If your curtains or blinds let in a lot of light, this may stimulate a nerve from the eye to the part of the brain that controls sleep hormones. Just like blue light, natural daylight blocks melatonin from promoting sleepiness when it is time for bed. Heat, on the other hand, is just plain uncomfortable, and you will find it more difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep when lying in a hot room. Buy some blackout blinds and a fan and your sleep cycle will improve massively.
3. Try getting an adjustable bed
A major advantage of an adjustable bed is that it allows you to lie in the most comfortable sleeping position for proper rest. When your back and spine are supported, you are less likely to experience misalignment, which can cause you to wake up in the night with neck, back or shoulder pain. Even better if your adjustable bed has a comfortable mattress, preferably memory foam, that will conform to the shape of your body rather than creating pressure points.
4. Block out sound
Many people with lupus are restless sleepers, and even if you don’t live on a busy road, you may still be disturbed by every single noise around you – including your partner’s breathing. If you think your sleep is being affected by noises you have no control over, do what you can to block out sound. Some people find that a pair of professional ear plugs does the trick. If you would rather not obstruct your hearing entirely, you can instead play white noise or switch on a fan to provide a soothing backing track, which will hopefully cut out all those disturbing sounds.
5. Try the “15-minute rule”
Sometimes, you just have to accept that for the moment, sleep isn’t happening. If you have been tossing and turning for what feels like hours, try the 15-minute rule, which instructs you to get out of bed and go into another room if you are not asleep after 15 minutes. Make sure your chosen activity is relaxing, like reading a book or meditating, and avoid the TV. When you feel sleepy enough, head back to bed and try again. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to repeat this process several times before falling asleep.
6. Stick to a sleeping pattern
Having a proper sleeping pattern is essential if you want to establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle. When you maintain a regular sleep schedule, even while on vacation and on the weekends, you can help to keep the body’s internal clock consistent, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up more easily. So if you are tempted to stay up late to watch another episode of your favourite Netflix show, think again: it could throw your sleep schedule completely off whack.
7. Exercise frequently
You may know that high-intensity exercise is often a bad idea if you have a flare-up of lupus symptoms, because it may damage inflamed joints and muscles and worsen fatigue. But without exercise, you will find it much more difficult to fall asleep, so try low-impact exercise like swimming, yoga and walking. When we exercise, we experience a rise in body temperature. When our temperature drops after exercise, it triggers feelings of sleepiness. Tiring out our bodies also makes us naturally more prepared for sleep, no matter what time of the day we exercise. Try to exercise for 30 minutes a day for maximum benefits.
8. Manage your pain
One of the biggest causes of bad sleep in people with lupus is pain from flare-ups. That is why it is incredibly important to learn how to manage your symptoms instead of deciding to just grin and bear it. If you feel pain, you won’t feel relaxed, which is what you need to fall asleep. Your doctor may prescribe you with anti-inflammatory drugs for pain caused by swelling in your muscles and joints. You may also find that natural painkillers, like hemp oil, work well for you. Even a hot water bottle before bed may help to soothe your joints and help you to relax before sleep.
9. Consider your diet
Eating too close to bedtime can make it very difficult to fall asleep, as feeling too full or experiencing reflux and indigestion can be very uncomfortable. But you should also avoid going to bed feeling hungry, so it is best to have a light snack one or two hours before bedtime. If you have lupus, you will already know the importance of following a healthy diet plan, especially if your sleep is suffering. Avoid foods that can interfere with sleep, such as heavily processed foods, and foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates.
10. Avoid napping
If you are sleeping poorly at night, it can be tempting – or necessary – to have a nap in the middle of the day. The problem with doing this is that it confuses the body’s sleep cycle even more, so that come night-time, it doesn’t feel prepared for sleep. If you are going to nap, try and limit your hours of sleep to between 30 and 60 minutes per day. Scheduling your naps is also a good idea, as it can allow your body to become used to your daily routine. Try not to nap too close to bedtime, as this will affect your ability to sleep at night.
James is a Torontonian who enjoys writing, fishing, skiing, canoeing and playing badminton in his free time. You can find him at SustainablePlanet.ca.