RA & Sleep Deprivation: In Search Of A Good Night's Sleep

Vanessa Collins Health Guide
  • Restorative sleep is necessary for good health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to high blood pressure, heart failure, obesity, depression and many other serious health issues.


    I talk with several people online who are trying to live well with RA. One of the topics we often discuss is our inability to sleep.


    I used to be right there with everyone else, chatting at 3 o'clock in the morning. We were all desperate for sleep, but it eluded us night after night after night.


    I finally reached a point that I had to figure out what was going on. Curiously, none of my doctors ever asked me how I was sleeping.

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    I recently mentioned to my orthopedic doctor that I was having trouble sleeping at night. She told me that opoids do that to some people. Aha! Somewhere to begin. I had some experimenting to do.


    At that time I was taking 300 mg of Tramadol Extended Release. I liked it because it kept the medicine in my system 24 hours a day. I felt better in the morning taking the extended release formula.


    I decided to stop taking the Tramadol ER and go back to the 50 mg tablets that you take every six hours. I did discuss this with my doctor.


    I took two Tramadol every morning, and two every afternoon. I didn't take any more Tramadol in the evening. I did continue to take my nightly Soma (a muscle relaxant).


    Much to my surprise, I started sleeping through the night! I was so stunned and to thankful. I didn't sleep through the night right away. At first, I was able to sleep four hours at a time, then six hours at a time, and then eight hours at a time.


    I have continued with the Tramadol 50 mg tablets and abandoned the ER formula. I am sleeping through the night. I realize not everyone reacts to opoids the way that I do, but I am sharing this information in case there is anyone out there who may benefit.


    If you are not sleeping through the night, please talk to the prescribing doctor. Ask him or her if one of your medications could be the problem, and then ask for your doctor's recommendation. It is always important to check with your doctor before you adjust any medication amount or dosing schedule.


    Just when I thought I had solved my sleep problem, another issue popped up. I was sleeping, but I wasn't feeling refreshed in the mornings.


    My husband provided the information I needed to proceed on my quest for a good night's sleep. He explained to me that I was snoring and not breathing for 15 seconds at a time three or four times an hour.


    Bleh! Sleep apnea. There are all kinds of sleep apnea. The kind I have is called obstructive sleep apnea.


    When I sleep on my back, the back of my throat relaxes too much and obstructs my airway. I have awakened and actually felt the back of my throat “collapsing”.


    The thought of a CPAP machine made me shiver. I know they help so many people. I was just being rebellious. I did not want a CPAP in my bedroom.


    Before I went the sleep study route that would most likely have lead to a CPAP machine, I talked to my dentist. He was able to help me with a device called an NTI.


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    An NTI is made of acrylic and can be made in the dentist's office. The NTI I have holds my lower jaw forward and this keeps my airway open.


    My NTI was custom made to fit over my two front teeth in my upper jaw. I also clench my jaws at night and grind my teeth. I have actually broken caps by doing this. I am happy to report that my NTI keeps me from grinding my teeth at night, and keeps my airway open.


    At some point, if the NTI stops working, I will give in and go for a sleep study. At this point, my NTI is taking care of my sleep apnea problem. I learned form my dentist that he has other patients who cannot get along with a CPAP machine who have had success with a custom-made NTI device.


    I recently read the the NTI has been approved by the FDA to treat migraines. I do have migraines, but not often. When I have a migraine, it is a “doozy”.


    I experience those sharp pains shooting up the side of my head, my scalp is too tender to touch, light hurts my eyes, and the sound of someone walking across the room is torture. I must say that since wearing the NTI, I have not had a migraine headache. Only time will tell if the NTI is truly helping in that area.


    There are so many causes of insomnia. Sometimes pain won't let us rest, sometimes stress keeps us awake, sometime we may be taking a medication that is interfering with our sleep.


    If you find yourself unable to enjoy a good night's sleep, please talk to your health care provider. He or she should be able to help you identify the cause of your sleeplessness, and find a solution. It may take a while to identify the cause, but it is time well spent. 

Published On: June 12, 2013