Sleep Strategies for People with Sjögren’s

Sleep is important throughout one’s life.  Getting sufficient quality sleep along with enough sleep, can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.  While we are sleeping, our bodies are working to support healthy brain function and preserve our physical health.  Sleep also helps maintain healthy hormone balance, supports healthy growth and development.  The immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy.

It is especially important for individuals living with Sjögren’s Syndrome to get appropriate sleep.  Besides the regular sleep disruptions many people experience, for those with Sjögren’s, sleep may be interrupted for additional reasons such as pain, instilling eye drops, sipping water and going to the washroom.  People with Sjögren’s often experience debilitating daytime fatigue, and sleep deprivation aggravates this problem.

The following tips may help improve your sleep habits:

  • plan to get 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep per night; longer if you wake up frequently.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (including weekends).  It can be tempting to sleep in on weekends but even a couple hours difference may interrupt your internal clock.  You may experience more tiredness or “jetlag-like” symptoms if your week day and weekend schedules differ.
  • Keep the bedroom temperature low – between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.  Your mattress should be supportive and comfortable.  Replace good quality mattresses every 8-10 years.  Use natural fiber bedding and allergy barrier sheets and  pillowcases.
  • Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex.  No reading, watching TV or excited conversations and/or disagreements.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet: Check for noises or distractions that may disturb your sleep.  Consider using ear plugs or “white noise” machines and other devices if needed.
  • No cell phones in the bedroom!  They will only distract you.
  • Keep your bedroom dark (a dim night light is fine, if needed); install blackout curtains.  Use eye shades/masks if necessary.
  • Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a few hours before bedtime (light snacks are alright).
  • Wind Down:  Your body needs time to prepare for sleep mode (one hour before). Spend the hour prior to bed doing calming activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, applying warm/cool eye compresses or listening to soft music or books on tape.  Avoid energetic exercise or using electronic devices/bright artificial light such as TV or computers.  The light emanating from the screens may activate the brain and make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Use relaxation techniques before bed:  Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualizing a restful, peaceful place or situation.
  • Instill eye drops/gels and moisturizing sprays or gels for the nose.
  • Use a cool air bedroom humidifier and air-purifier (with hepa filtration)
  • Exercise daily!
  • Spend time outside each day when possible.
  • Reflux:  If Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is an issue, avoid eating three hours minimum before bedtime and elevate your head by 30-45 degrees.  Consult your physician for further advice and intervention if this remains an issue.
  • Manage your thoughts and stress:  If stress or your worries are keeping you awake, you may need assistance with stress management and learning how to maintain a calm, positive outlook to get a better night sleep.  Don’t be afraid to seek help.
  • Napping may provide a boost in alertness and performance during the day.  Naps should be no more that 20 minutes.  If you are continuing to have trouble falling asleep at night, limit naps or take them earlier in the afternoon.
  • Snoring is a possible sign of sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a potentially harmful sleep condition in which people stop breathing for brief periods, sometimes many times per night.  Not every snorer has sleep apnea but if snoring is an issue, consult your physician for possible further investigation and treatment.
  • If you are continuing to have difficulties with sleep, work with your physician to find the appropriate solutions for you.

*article taken from SjSC “Connections” Newsletter, Volume 10, Issue 1

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