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How joint stiffness can affect your sleep


It’s thought that one in five people with joint stiffness struggle to sleep. So, if you’re finding it hard to drift off at night, you’re not alone. Joint stiffness can play havoc with sleep routines, making it hard to settle comfortably and leading to tiredness after an unsatisfying night’s rest. The worst part? It’s a vicious cycle: the less sleep you get, the worse your joint stiffness symptoms become.

In this blog, we’ll address how joint stiffness is linked to sleep and look at some proactive ways to manage the symptoms. Armed with a little bit of knowledge, it’s possible to ease the symptoms of joint stiffness and settle into a good night’s sleep – and to wake up feeling refreshed and revitalised in the morning.

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The benefits of getting a good night’s sleep

First things first, why is sleep so important when it comes to joint stiffness? The answer is in that vicious cycle we mentioned before. A good night’s sleep gives the body a chance to repair and rest. A body that isn’t well rested and doesn’t have sufficient downtime is more at risk of injury or mobility issues due to joint stiffness. And a person suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation is more prone to low moods and even depression.

Whether your joint stiffness predates your disturbed sleep pattern or the other way around, there’s no doubt that the two are inextricably linked. Studies have even shown that sleep deprivation can contribute to raised inflammatory markers in the blood, which makes sleeping well even more important for anyone with stiff joints.

Common complaints when it comes to joint stiffness and sleep

While joint stiffness affects everyone in different ways, there are certain complaints that crop up most often when it comes to sleep. For example, you might find yourself:

  • Finding it hard to drift off to sleep due to difficulty getting comfortable in bed
  • Waking in the night due to discomfort from laying in one position for so long
  • Experiencing disturbed sleep patterns from tossing and turning in an attempt to get comfortable
  • Waking up very early due to discomfort, therefore shortening overall length of sleep
  • Experiencing mobility issues on waking due to a lack of movement overnight

The good news? There are many different ways to tackle these common situations and pave the way for a proper rest in the evening. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take:

4 steps to reduce joint stiffness at night

Woman upset after bad night's sleep

1. Try to manage joint stiffness in the day

Staying active during your waking hours can really help when it comes to bedtime, so it’s worth investing some time in maintaining your mobility with gentle exercise. You could try these simple exercises to ease joint stiffness in your hands and fingers, for example. We’ve also got some great suggestions on how to look after your ankles if that’s an area that affects you.

Just don’t be tempted to over-exert yourself during the daytime, as that will only serve to exacerbate the symptoms after dark. Listen to your body, be mindful of any mobility challenges, and only do what feels right for you. Discover the signs you’re overdoing it with stiff joints now.

2. Treat areas of concern before bed

A warm compress can be a brilliant way to soothe joint stiffness in a specific area, and it can be particularly effective before bed. You can pick one up from your local pharmacy, or – if your joint stiffness is more generalised – try a long soak in a warm bath or a hot shower. The heat from the water not only helps to ease joint stiffness but also relax any areas of tension in your body. It’s also a great way to wind down mentally and prepare your brain and body for bed.

3. Practise good sleep hygiene

What you do in the run-up to bedtime can have a big impact on how well you sleep. This pre-sleep routine is known as ‘sleep hygiene’. The Sleep Foundation defines good sleep hygiene as: “having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep.”

They also recommend “keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day.” Bear in mind that things like caffeine intake can also affect how easily you drift off at night, as can using electronic devices such as your phone or tablet before bed.

4. Consider what you’re sleeping on

You spend a large portion of your life in bed, so it makes sense to try to ensure what you’re sleeping on is fit for purpose – particularly if you experience joint stiffness. It’s worth making sure your mattress provides enough support for your joints, and you may want to consider an orthopaedic mattress or a pressure-relieving one to take the strain off while you sleep. The same applies to your pillow, which is particularly important for neck stiffness. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of products available designed specifically to ease the symptoms of joint stiffness at night.

The best sleep positions to help with joint stiffness

Man sleeping next to cat

You can have the best sleep routine and the most suitable bedding for joint stiffness, but all that hard work can soon be undone if you find yourself sleeping in a position that aggravates your symptoms. The best sleep position for you will depend on where you experience joint issues. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist will be the best person to advise. Here are some general pointers that can help you find a suitable position, though, which should give you a good starting point:

Back and neck

Alignment is key if you suffer from joint issues in your back or neck, so the goal is to find a supportive position where your spine and neck curve naturally, often with the help of pillows. For instance, if you sleep on your back, make sure your pillow is small enough to allow your head to rest naturally – rather than tilting it forward and forcing your chin down towards your chest. Avoid sleeping on your front if you have neck stiffness, as this position requires you to twist your head to one side.

Individual joints

If you have stiffness in individual joints, you’ll want to sleep on the unaffected side if possible and use pillows to alleviate pressure on the joint while you sleep. If knees are a problem area and you sleep on your back, for example, try placing a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees – you can play around with the number and positioning of pillows until you find a comfortable position that supports the joint in question.

Lastly, consider a joint supplement

iMOVE Active is a food supplement that has been specifically developed with our unique triple-action formula to support adult joint health. It’s packed with high-quality nutrients, including Vitamins C and E, to give you daily joint support.


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