Health & Fitness

What is the relation between sleep and arthritis?

Good quality sleep for at least 7 hours every night is an important part of healthy living. But, when a person suffers from arthritis, they may find it difficult to fall asleep. Dr Ravi Kumar, consultant, orthopaedic, robotic joint replacement surgeon says swelling, pain or stiffness in one or more joints are the first signs of arthritis. If left unattended, these could worsen with age.

It is important to know that arthritis is of two types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In osteoarthritis, there is wear and tear of a joint’s cartilage, which is the tough, slippery coating at the ends of bones where they form a joint. When the cartilage is sufficiently damaged, the bone could grind directly against bone, causing pain and limiting the movement of the affected person, Dr Kumar explains, adding that osteoarthritis also harms the tissues that connect muscle to bone and keep the joint together.

In rheumatoid arthritis, he says the strong membrane that surrounds all the joint pieces and the joint capsule is attacked by the body’s immune system. This lining (synovial membrane) swells and becomes irritated, which could eventually destroy the bone and the cartilage in the joint.

The doctor states that family background, age, sex (rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men), prior joint damage and obesity are some of the factors responsible for arthritis to set into a person’s body.

How is sleep an important factor?

“According to research, up to 80 per cent of patients with arthritis struggle to fall asleep. The joints that would be swollen, achy and stiff would render it difficult for those suffering from arthritis to get proper sleep. In fact, some people even attribute their insomnia to their arthritis pain,” says Dr Kumar, in association with Magniflex India, an Italian mattress brand.

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He notes that the relationship is reciprocal, meaning that insufficient sleep can worsen joint discomfort and raise your risk of being “crippled or depressed”.

“This is the vicious cycle that may develop as a result of pain or strange sleeping habits. Generally, a person with arthritis must seek medical or surgical treatment without delay. However, having a suitable mattress to sleep on could make a lot of difference in alleviating this painful situation,” the expert says.

What makes a mattress suitable?

The height of the bed and mattress is crucial — these have a direct correlation with the person’s posture (90 degrees while sitting or getting up). “The bed and mattress should be optimised based on the height of the person rather than the average height, in order to avoid any kind of discomfort or friction leading to arthritis,” Dr Kumar concludes.

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