Restful, good-quality sleep is the bedrock of overall well-being, fundamental to every aspect of our physical and mental health. However, for the 17 million people in the UK affected by a musculoskeletal condition, a peaceful night’s sleep may seem like a pipe dream.
While chronic joint conditions such as arthritis are commonly associated with poor mobility, symptoms also include chronic joint pain, inflammation, stiffness, and fatigue, which can have a debilitating impact day and night. As a result, studies suggest that as many as 80% of people with arthritis report trouble sleeping.
GP and health economist interested in rheumatology and arthritis, Dr Alastair Dickson, explains: ‘Arthritic pain can make it difficult to sleep at night, and poor sleep can exacerbate joint pain, resulting in a vicious cycle. The cause of why poor sleep aggravates our joint pain is not fully understood.’
‘There are multiple competing theories about why poor sleep intensifies joint pain, including the theory that poor sleep can exacerbate joint inflammation. Our perception of pain can also be more pronounced at night, contributing to increased distress and sleepless nights.’
In addition to increased pain overnight, joint stiffness upon waking is a common early symptom of arthritis, further impeding your ability to jump-start the following morning.
Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can help to relieve symptoms and increase the likelihood of a deep and refreshing night’s sleep, helping to get your day back on track.
According to Dr Alastair Dickson: ‘What we do know is that keeping active during the day, such as taking part in exercise, is beneficial as it can help improve your sleep cycle. Exercise also helps to improve muscle strength, which supports your joints and reduces pain. Even a gentle outdoor walk, swimming, yoga, or pilates can make a big difference.’
‘In addition, a relaxing bedtime routine may help prepare your body and mind for restful sleep, including relaxation techniques and avoiding electronic devices, alcohol, and caffeine late in the day.’
‘There is clinical evidence that rose-hip supplements may be effective with joint pain, with a summary analysis of three clinical trials showing that a rose-hip supplement containing a high level of a galactolipid called GOPO is clinically effective in relieving pain.’
‘In addition, laboratory-based studies of the same rose-hip GOPO compounds indicate that they may have anti-inflammatory properties and potential benefits to cartilage. Still, clinical trials are required to confirm whether these laboratory findings can be translated into patients. Separately there is also some evidence that ginger can help relieve mild osteoarthritic pain.’
GOPO Joint Health Plus Ginger is the first UK supplement to contain the unique combination of ginger extracts with the powerful anti-inflammatory GOPO – a galactolipid extracted from the seeds and husks of the Rosa-canina plant.
Research has shown that both compounds, GOPO and ginger can relieve joint pain and improve joint flexibility, helping to keep your nights restful and active.
Dr Alastair Dickson comments: ‘Rose-hip and ginger supplements are not available on the NHS but can be bought over the counter. Regular exercise (even small amounts), access to direct sunlight and a good sleep routine will all help with your muscle and joint pain and sleep and also improve the effectiveness of what you use for your pain control. ‘
‘Importantly, if your joint pain at night persists over several weeks and is affecting your quality of life or your mood, it may be worth speaking to your doctor.’