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posted Mar 25, 2015, 2:04 PM by Kim Cobb   [ updated Apr 8, 2015, 7:20 AM ]

Get Better Sleep to Help Manage Your Chronic Condition

By: Darby Simpson, RD, Health Promotion Specialist

When we sleep well, we feel refreshed, energized, and ready to take on the world. Adequate sleep restores us physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can facilitate learning, increase concentration, and help us to retain more information. It is important to know that getting enough sleep at night can help manage symptoms that result from a chronic condition or multiple chronic conditions. There is no magic number for the hours of sleep you should be getting but most people do best with 7-9 hours according to the National Sleep Foundation. However, some feel well-rested and alert with 6 hours and some may need up to 10 hours to function at their best. 

If you are not getting enough sleep at night there are some self-management techniques you could try with a proven 75% to 85% success rate before turning to professional help or medications. Here are some things you could try before you get into bed:
Get a comfortable bed that allows for ease and good body movement, which usually involves a firm mattress that supports the spine and prevents your body from rolling to the middle of the bed.
Warm your hands and feet with gloves or socks, or covering painful knees with tube socks that pull over your knees with the toes cut out from them. 
Find a comfortable sleeping position that may involve using smaller pillows that can be placed in the right places to relieve pain and discomfort.  Experiment with different positions and pillows. 
Elevate the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches on wooden blocks which has been shown to help with breathing and acid reflux.
Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, cool or warm. 
Use a vaporizer if you live where the air is dry, which makes the air easier to breath.
Make your bedroom safe and comfortable. Keep a lamp, telephone, and your eyeglasses next to your bed within easy reach and keep your cane where you won’t trip over it if you have to get up during the middle of the night.

Some things you can avoid before bedtime are eating a big meal, alcohol, caffeine, smoking, diet pills (often contain stimulants), and using the computer or watching TV. Sleeping pills may seem like the perfect solution but often become less effective over time. Also, avoid taking diuretics or “water pills” before bed can help you have less interrupted sleep by avoiding the use of the bathroom. Unless your doctor or pharmacist has recommended otherwise, you may want to try taking these in the morning. Developing a routine may help with getting a good nights’ sleep by going to bed around the same time every night and getting up around the same time every morning, even on the weekends. Also, getting regular exercise has shown to improve sleep as well as getting some sunshine in the morning to help regularize your body clock and rhythms.

If you have tried these things and you still feel like you’re not getting enough sleep, don’t put off asking for help by a professional. Most sleep problems can be solved and once they’re gone, you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep and better health!

If you would like to continue to learn more self-management techniques on how to manage your chronic conditions, please contact Darby Simpson at the Aging and Disability Resource Center (715-537-6225.) Learn about Living Well with Chronic Conditions, a six week-workshop proven to help you manage and improve your day-to-day symptoms of living with a chronic condition such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, COPD, and more. Stay tuned for upcoming dates and locations of the Living Well with Chronic Conditions workshop. 
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