Tips For A Good Night's Sleep

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2019 | Last updated: March 2021

Sleep is important to allow the body time to rest and heal, but sleeping can be difficult when you have chronic pain due to ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Studies have shown that people with AS may be at increased risk of disturbed sleep, including more insomnia, waking during the night, and feeling unrested after sleep, and poor quality sleep is linked with higher scores of pain, stiffness, and fatigue. In addition, disturbed sleep is associated with a lower quality of life.1

To improve your sleep quality and increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, try these strategies2,3:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene includes practices and good habits that foster good sleep quality, such as avoiding caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, establishing a regular bedtime, and making sure your sleep environment is pleasant.
  • Enhance freedom of movement. Make sure sheets and blankets don’t bind you down to allow for easy movement during the night. You may need to switch positions to stay comfortable.
  • Stretch before bed. Do some stretches to calm your body and engage your joints in gentle exercise before sleeping. The pain and stiffness from AS is worse with inactivity, so stretching before laying down helps minimize the time you’ll be inactive.
  • Get regular exercise during the day. Physical activity is crucial for managing AS, and regular exercise also helps the body sleep better at night.
  • Avoid using phones or other lighted screens right before bed. The light from electronics can make the brain think it’s daytime rather than nighttime. Try to limit your use of electronics later in the evening.

What’s the best sleep position for ankylosing spondylitis?

Many people with AS wonder what the best position for the body during sleep may be. The best position is the one that is most comfortable for you in the moment that allows you to get the rest you need. However, you may want to try different positions to allow for more flexibility and less time in just one position. If you sleep on your stomach, switch which way your head faces so you’re not always facing the same side, as this can put extra strain on your neck. If you sleep on your side, try to avoid too much bending at the hips and knees. You may want to try putting a pillow between the knees for extra support.3

What’s the best mattress for ankylosing spondylitis?

Supporting your body with a good quality mattress is even more important when you have a chronic condition like AS. The best mattress is one that is firm and supports the body but not too hard that it is uncomfortable. Avoid mattresses that are too soft or old, which can cause additional neck or back pain and disrupt sleep.3

Get professional help if needed

If you continue to have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder that is impacting the quality of your sleep or your ability to get to sleep.

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