Insomnia is not normal at any age, but it is unfortunately a common problem when you have arthritis symptoms.

In a 2010 study of 613 people with osteoarthritis and an average age of 78 years, 70 percent reported poor sleep. The study in Osteoarthritis Cartilage found that, not surprisingly, poor sleep was significantly associated with greater fatigue. Napping did not help.

The good news, however, is that there are a number of sleep treatments and therapies that may help. Because it’s not unusual for insomnia to have more than one cause, you may need to combine several fixes.

Keeping a sleep journal, which records your sleep/wake patterns, can help your doctor determine why you can’t sleep. If your physician suspects you have sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing briefly, or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), in which you experience frequent muscle jerks and spasms (usually in the legs) during sleep, she may send you to a sleep center for a polysomnograph. This overnight test records your brain waves, revealing a picture of your sleep cycles.

Many sleep experts consider stress and anxiety to be a prime cause of short-term insomnia. Anxiety that causes a few sleepless nights can lead, in some people, to a condition called psychophysiologic insomnia, where a person focuses on his sleep problems and develops habits that lead to chronic insomnia.

Chances are good that making modifications to your lifestyle will help you get a good night’s sleep. Most experts say sleep medications should be used only as a last resort, or only short term, to provide relief while you work on implementing lifestyle changes.

Sleeping Pills and Supplements

Despite that advice, a National Sleep Foundation survey of 1,003 women found that 29 percent used some kind of sleep aid, either prescription or over the counter, at least a few nights a week. Yvette Taylor, 60, an editor in Boca Raton, FL, says she relied on Tylenol PM for years for her pain and sleep problems until her fibromyalgia was diagnosed in the late 1990s. “I couldn’t sleep without taking it,” she says.

Still, sleep experts are lukewarm, at best, about the safety and efficacy of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. Most contain antihistamines, which can cause blurred vision, constipation and urinary retention. And antihistamines can leave you feeling sluggish the next day. Tylenol PM and other products contain acetaminophen, which could result in too high a dose, as well as subsequent liver problems, if you’re already taking it for arthritis.