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Sleep tight despite lupus

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

A poor night’s rest can mean more than a groggy morning at work or school—not getting enough sleep also increases inflammation in your body. For people with lupus, this extra inflammation can worsen symptoms such as fatigue, pain, depressed mood, poor attention and concentration, mental processing speed, and memory.

What can you do to catch the Z’s you need? Plenty! Try to add each of the following strategies to your daily routine. With the right habits, you should find you are sleeping better, longer and more easily.

Environment

You want to re-associate the bedroom with sleep only (sex is OK, too). It may take a couple of weeks, but eventually you will re-establish this room as the place where sleep happens.

  • Stop use of anything with a “blue light”—computer, tablet, smartphone, TV—30 minutes before bedtime.
  • If your pets wake you during the night, ban them from the room.
  • Keep the room temperature slightly cool and the lighting dim or dark.
  • Use a “white noise” machine or a fan to block sound, and make sure you have a comfortable mattress, pillow, and bedding.
  • Follow the “15 minute rule”:  If you lie awake in bed for more than 15 minutes, get up and relax in a different room with the lights down until you're nodding off. Only then, go back to bed, and repeat these instructions as needed. 
  • Get up at the same time every day—including weekends and on vacation.

Daily exercise

In general, the more active you are during the day both mentally and physically, the better you will sleep at night.

  • Exercise consistently in the morning to create a regular sleep-wake rhythm.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily. Low-impact activities such as walking or riding a bike are a good start. Check with your doctor before adding more challenging activities.
  • Don’t work out too close to bedtime—allow five to six hours of down-time.

Pain and stress

Be sure that your overall lupus management plan includes specific approaches to managing pain and stress.

  • When you feel relaxed, it is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try taking a warm bath before settling into bed, or have your partner give you a massage.
  • If worrying is keeping you awake, make a list of the things that are bothering you along with a list of possible solutions you can work on tomorrow.
  • Remember that regular exercise also helps reduce the physiological effects of stress and can lessen pain.

Plan your naps

Your body has a set point for how much sleep it needs. Sleeping too much will affect your ability to sleep the next day. It can also interfere with the timing of your body’s “sleep-wake” clock.

  • Limit daytime naps to between 30 and 60 minutes.
  • Schedule them so they’re not at random.
  • Take the naps far apart from your primary sleep period so they don’t affect your ability to sleep at night. For example, if your activities are during the typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, that would mean no naps after 5 p.m.

Food, drink, alcohol, and caffeine

In general, you will want to stop eating and drinking liquids an hour or two before bedtime.

  • Don’t go to bed hungry. If you must eat something right before bed, make it something light, bland, and easily digestible, such as applesauce or crackers.
  • Be aware of your caffeine intake. Caffeine stays in your body for six hours and is found in lots of foods and beverages, so check the ingredients. 
  • Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep. Even though it may allow you to fall asleep quicker, alcohol reduces the quality of your sleep. Plus, regular use as a sleep aid may lead to alcohol dependence and negatively affect your health.

Other possible causes

Insomnia, sleep apnea, and periodic limb movement disorder can also disrupt sleep. Talk to your doctor, and find out more at sleepeducation.org.