Sleep and pain

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Many people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) experience trouble sleeping. With painful, stiff joints and itchy skin you may find getting to sleep and staying asleep challenging at times. 

You may think that disturbed sleep is an unfortunate side effect of the pain associated with PsA. But the relationship between poor sleep and pain works both ways. Poor sleep can make your joint pain worse, and  increase the likelihood of developing anxiety and depression. Poor sleep can also increase the risk of weight gain which can add extra pressure on your joints and increase inflammation. 

Research indicates that pain is a major cause of sleep disturbance in people with PsA and that repeated lack of sleep can worsen pain. 

What Causes Sleep to Affect Pain

The big question is why does disrupted sleep affect pain?

The answer appears to be due to changes in the way the central nervous system (CNS) processes pain.

Research amongst women with arthritis suggests that the pathways in the CNS (the spinal cord and brain) that regulate (specifically reduce) pain may not work as well in people who have disrupted sleep, compared to healthy women without chronic pain.

Another theory is that sleep problems may lead to increased inflammation throughout the body. Studies in healthy people have found that sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in inflammatory markers measured in the blood. Given that PsA is an inflammatory condition, you want to avoid things that could trigger further inflammation. 

How You Can Sleep Better

Since pain, sleep and inflammation appear to be closely linked, treating insomnia, if present, is an important step to help manage your PsA. A restful night’s sleep often starts with developing good sleep hygiene (or good habits to promote sleep), such as not taking electronic devices such as mobile phones or tablets to bed, avoiding caffeine in the evenings, and establishing a regular bedtime schedule. Learn more strategies that can help you sleep soundly.

It is natural when experiencing PsA pain to focus on managing your pain and less on our overall health. However, a good night’s sleep is central to taking care of yourself so you can better cope with life and living well with PsA.

 

This resource has been developed based on the best available evidence. A full list of resources is available upon request.