National Sleep Awareness Month: Sleep & Chronic Disease

Some people do not consider sleep to be a serious aspect in personal health. Yet, getting adequate sleep is one of the most important things we can do to stay healthy.

Living with arthritis or fibromyalgia, getting too little sleep can be especially draining.

According to researchers at Harvard Medical School who study sleep and chronic conditions, inadequate sleep increases our stress and blood pressure, impairs our bodies’ blood glucose control, and aggravates the joints. Long term, the CDC says that strain can raise our risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

So keeping ourselves well rested not only helps restore our daily energy, but also helps build resistance to more serious health conditions. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep a night for adults aged 26-64 and 7-8 hours a night for those 65 and older. Over 9 hours of sleep is not recommended, as getting too much sleep can cause health issues of its own.

Getting consistent and adequate sleep is easier said than done, but The National Sleep Foundation has some advice to help us get started:

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule, even on weekends
  • Practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual
  • Exercising daily
  • Evaluating your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light levels
  • Finding a comfortable mattress and pillows
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake before bed
  • Turning off devices with screens before bed

The National Sleep Foundation even provides a free Sleep Diary to print out and keep on your nightstand for easy sleep tracking.

The Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program and its Regional Arthritis Centers (RACs) offer programs like the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and Walk With Ease, which are a good starting place to help you establish a regular exercise routine. The Living a Healthy Life class can teach you more about how sleep and chronic conditions can impact one another.

Just like our bodies need regular exercise to stay healthy, our joints and mind need rest each night to heal and recharge. Through the healthy exercise of Steps to Better Health classes, you can work toward having sounder sleep as well as other benefits, like greater endurance and flexibility, too.

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