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A male sleeping in bed with a bedside lamp still on

It is important to get a full, restful night’s sleep. Yet, night after night, people living with lupus can have trouble sleeping. They might wake up often or have a poor quality of sleep. They may wake up in the morning feeling tired and not rested. If you have trouble sleeping, know that it can be a common problem for people with lupus.

Sleep & Lupus Symptoms

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Poor sleep is linked to some of the most common symptoms that people who live with lupus may experience.

  • Pain: Chronic pain can reduce sleep quality, and poor sleep can worsen pain. Over time, a consistent lack of sleep can trigger chronic pain.
  • Fatigue: Many people with chronic pain experience significant physical, mental, or emotional fatigue that interferes with their daily lives. Poor sleep can exacerbate fatigue.
  • Mood: Anxiety and depression can prevent a good night’s rest, and lack of sleep can dampen one’s mood the next day. Consistently poor sleep can trigger mood disorders.
  • Brain Fog: People living with lupus may have problems with concentrating, thinking clearly, remembering certain details, and finding the right words when they speak. A lack of sleep can make these symptoms worse.

How Can I Sleep Better?

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Getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep may help you manage lupus symptoms and feel more rested and energetic. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may be frustrated and confused about what to do.

You should talk to your primary care doctor about your sleep difficulty, especially if:

  1. you feel your sleep is disrupted sleep due to a frequent urge to use the restroom
  2. You feel your medication interferes with your sleep
  3. You snore
  4. Or you wake up feeling unrefreshed or with a headache

Often a few simple adjustments in behavior can help someone improve their sleep. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Keep a Schedule

    • Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Set an alarm. This will help your body establish a pattern.

    • If you must nap, do so for no more than 10-20 minutes, preferably in early afternoon.

  2. Prepare Your Bedroom

    • Adjust the room to a comfortable temperature.

    • Use drapes, shades, or an eye mask to keep the room dark.

    • Use a fan or ear plugs to keep the room quiet while you sleep.

    • Make sure the padding thickness on your mattress feels comfortable. If you have pain or soreness, adjust your pillows or mattress to support those areas.

    • Keep pets off the bed if they disrupt your sleep.

  3. Prepare Your Body

    • Avoid using electronics with artificial light in the hour before bedtime.

    • Take a bath before bedtime to relax and prepare your body for sleep.

    • If you exercise in the evening, try to do so at least two hours before bed

  4. Food and Drink

    • While a light snack such as a banana or warm glass of milk may help you sleep, heavy foods and drinks may make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Take only small sips of water or another beverage before bedtime to limit how often you need to use the restroom during the night.

    • Avoid foods and drinks with caffeine such as coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and caffeinated teas four to six hours before bed. If you take an herbal supplement, check to see whether it interferes with sleep.

    • Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It might wake you up in the middle of the night or make you use the restroom more often.

    • Avoid smoking around bedtime. Nicotine can cause shallow sleeping and sleeplessness. If you smoke and have sleep problems, you may want to limit your nicotine intake.

  5. Relaxation

    • Do a calming activity that you enjoy: listen to music, read a magazine, or meditate.

    • If you are stressed, jot down what worries you. Then, set aside time for the next day to think about the problem(s) you wrote down and how to solve them. Problems that cause worry at night often seem smaller in the daytime.

  6. Be Patient

    • It takes time and effort to improve your sleep patterns.

    • Pace yourself to keep symptoms from flaring up. Flare-ups, or periods when your symptoms are more intense, may interfere with sleep.

    • Track your progress.

    • It may take up to several weeks to notice improvements in your sleeping habits.

    • Even small improvements in your sleep can help your lupus-related symptoms.

Myths about Sleep

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MYTH #1: “I should sleep whenever I get a chance.”

FACT: Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day helps your body learn a pattern of sleep.

While you might feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and unable to prioritize sleep, a good night’s rest can help you perform better during the day. Skipping sleep to work is counterproductive, and quality sleep is essential to both your well-being and success.

MYTH #2: “I’ll be tired the next day if I change my sleep habits.”

FACT: It’s true that when you change your sleep pattern, you may be a bit more tired at first. Changing old habits and learning how to get a good, restful night’s sleep doesn’t happen immediately. Give yourself a few weeks to get used to the new pattern and for your body to adjust.

Other Resources

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CBT-I from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs is an app for your mobile phone or tablet that can teach you strategies for improving your sleep.

More Self Care Modules

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