“We hypothesize that people with osteoarthritis may engage in behaviors that are not conducive to sleep, which in turn may affect their perception of pain,” says study investigator Megan Ruiter Petrov, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow now at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Examples of such behaviors include keeping an irregular sleep schedule, napping during the day, watching TV or eating too much before bed or keeping the bedroom noisy or uncomfortable.

“There are certainly multiple factors involved in the relationship between poor sleep and pain, but sleep behaviors are one of the factors we’re interested in, because they can be modified,” Ruiter Petrov says.

The UAB study is enrolling African Americans and non-Hispanic white people ages 45 to 85 years old with and without osteoarthritis of the knee. You must also be enrolled in the Understanding Pain and Limitations of Osteoarthritic Disease (UPLOAD) study to participate in the sleep study.  For more information contact 205-934-9614 or Adriana@uab.edu.

Researchers hope their studies will help shed light on new ways to treat sleep to modify pain, rather than treating the source of pain, which can be difficult.

Ways to Improve Your Sleep

To relieve pain and improve your sleep, you could turn to medicine. However, sleep aids and pain medicines can have side effects. Consider trying some simple sleep hygiene strategies first:

  • Do not eat a heavy meal before bed.
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol before bed.
  • Do not watch TV in the bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom comfortably cool, quiet and dark.

If you still can’t sleep, ask your doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vitiello and his colleagues reported that CBT reduced insomnia and improved sleep efficiency in older adults with OA.

During CBT, you will learn about the factors that can interrupt your sleep, such as taking too many daytime naps. Then you try to change those behaviors to improve your sleep quality; for example, only going to bed when you’re tired or staying up later than usual to induce sleepiness.

To find an accredited sleep center near you, visit: www.sleepeducation.com/find-a-center

For a certified behavioral sleep medicine provider in your area, visit: www.behavioralsleep.org/findspecialist.aspx