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Sleeping With Arthritis

Arthritis can sometimes lead to a sleepless cycle. Pain from arthritis can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep — or leave you tossing and turning all night — while poor sleep can worsen joint pain1. If you’ve found yourself stuck in this scenario, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice sleep, since good sleep is essential to maintaining your physical and mental health.

Instead, you can manage arthritis while still taking action to get better rest. Plus, you’re not alone: an estimated 53.2 million people in the U.S.2 have arthritis. 

Are you wondering how to sleep with arthritis? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for tips on how to sleep with arthritis, the best positions to sleep in, and lifestyle changes you can make for better sleep. 

What Is the Best Position to Sleep In with Arthritis?

Symptoms of arthritis3, which can include both physical and emotional symptoms, can make it challenging to fall and stay asleep. 

The Arthritis Foundation reports that up to 80 percent of people with arthritis have difficulty sleeping.3 This can be due to one of many4 factors, since arthritis symptoms often include pain, redness, heat, and/or swelling in your joints.

About one in five U.S. adults5 with arthritis also has symptoms of anxiety and depression, the CDC reports, which can further exacerbate existing sleep issues or cause new ones. 

So, what can you do to help promote better rest? One step you can take is to find a sleep position that helps alleviate arthritis pain (or at least can prevent it from getting worse). Here’s what to know about the three usual sleep positions and how they impact arthritis.

If you’re a senior looking for a supportive mattress, check out our Best Mattress for Seniors.

Side Sleeping

If you’re an avid side sleeper, you don’t have to give up sleeping on your favorite side (or your least painful side) if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis. Instead, the Arthritis Foundation recommends keeping your neck in a neutral position to help keep your spine aligned6 while you sleep.

You can do this by sleeping with a taller pillow under your neck so your neck aligns with your head. Alternatively, you can also use a U-shaped travel pillow or a rolled-up towel under your neck to help give it more support. Side sleepers can also lie on the hip that’s least painful and place one or more pillows between the legs to help keep the spine straight and aligned.6

Back Sleeping 

Back sleeping is another sleep position that you don’t have to give up with arthritis. Instead, a few modifications can help make back sleeping more comfortable.

The Arthritis Foundation suggests using a thin pillow under your head to align the normal curves of your back.6 You can also add a second pillow underneath the small of your back and a third pillow under your knees to help keep your spine neutral. You can experiment with one, two, or three pillows to find which combination of pillows, if any, works best for you.

Stomach Sleeping

While side and back sleeping are recommended for arthritis, stomach sleeping is discouraged. That’s because sleeping on your stomach will likely require you to turn and keep your head to the left or right as you sleep, which can aggravate neck pain and other arthritis symptoms.6

Stomach sleepers can also be more susceptible to lower back pain if their mattress isn’t supportive enough to keep their hips from dipping into the bed.

If you’re a stomach sleeper, you may want to consider switching to back or side sleeping. In the event you absolutely must sleep on your stomach, we advise getting a firmer mattress for stomach sleepers that’s going to ensure your lower back doesn’t arch. We also recommend sleeping on a flat pillow so your head and neck aren’t propped upward, which could worsen neck pain. 

12 Tips for Sleeping Better with Arthritis

Once you’ve found the ideal sleep position, there are other modifications you can make to both your sleep routine and sleep environment for better rest with arthritis. Here are 12 tips for sleeping better with arthritis and how to implement them into your life.

1. Invest in a Quality Mattress

Your mattress can play a big role in your comfort at night, but even more so in your pain levels. That’s because an old or sagging mattress can leave depressions where you sleep, potentially throwing your spine alignment off.6 If this is the case, you may want to consider tossing your old mattress and investing in a new quality mattress.

Helpful Finds: Our top picks for the best mattresses for arthritis

2. Get the Right Pillow

The right pillow loft (height) can help support a healthy neck and head alignment to avoid worsening neck pain. If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll want to use a thicker, taller pillow, while back sleepers should invest in a thinner or flatter pillow.6 Stomach sleepers should sleep on a flat pillow to prevent their head and neck from arching upward.

Find the best pillows based on your sleep type:

3. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is one of the principles of good sleep hygiene, which refers to the behaviors, habits, and environment that surround your sleep. That’s because a routine — and a consistent sleep schedule — help your body understand when it’s time to wind down for bed, which can ultimately lead to better sleep.

4. Get Regular Exercise and Stretch

Exercise7 is an excellent way to promote sleep and keep healthy. Moderate aerobic activity helps increase the amount of slow-wave sleep that you get, which is the deepest form of sleep that helps you feel rejuvenated.7

Gentle stretching can also help you alleviate arthritis pain that may keep you awake at night.

More: 14 Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

5. Turn Off Screen Devices Before Bed

While it can be tempting to turn on a good Netflix show before bed, experts caution against using devices that emit blue light8 prior to going to sleep.

That’s because blue light-emitting devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin. At night, we produce more melatonin to help promote sleepiness, but blue light can block this melatonin production, which can make you feel more alert.8

6. Make Your Bedroom Ideal for Sleeping

An ideal bedroom environment is another staple of good sleep hygiene. This includes keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. 

The best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. Blackout shades or a sleep eye mask can also help reduce light pollution, while earplugs can help eliminate noise if you have a noisy household or live in a busy city.

7. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Another guiding point of sleep hygiene is avoiding alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can keep you awake so to err on the side of caution, you may want to limit caffeine intake to the morning. 

In the case of alcohol, it may initially help you fall asleep, but research shows it can lead to more disrupted rest9

8. Don’t Eat Too Late at Night

Eating too late at night can keep you awake. Studies show10 that eating within three hours of bedtime is associated with a 40 percent increase in nighttime awakenings. Instead, try to cap your last meal of the day to dinner time. If you are very hungry right before bed, opt for a light, healthy snack but avoid eating a large meal.

9. Keep a Sleep Diary

A sleep diary can serve two purposes. It can help you keep track of your sleep patterns and habits, or it can be a tool for jotting down your thoughts and worries before bed. By getting your thoughts on paper, you may help eliminate some nighttime worrying. The sleep diary can also help you know what habits are improving your sleep and which ones are hindering it.

10. Manage Stress

It’s no secret that stress can lead to poor sleep11. Stress is one of the most common causes of insomnia, while not sleeping can also increase stress. That’s why managing stress is essential to getting good, quality rest, especially if your stress involves worrying or thinking about managing arthritis or arthritis pain.

Developing a relaxing bedtime routine can help you reduce stress levels at night. A routine might look different from person to person but can include gentle stretching, a warm bath, and/or reading a book before bed (a book is also a great alternative to TV).

11. Hot and Cold Therapy

Alternating hot and cold therapy12 is one of the best ways to reduce arthritis pain. If pain is keeping you awake at night, you can consider using cold therapy (such as icing) to alleviate any swelling or redness. Hot therapy, meanwhile, like a heating pad, can loosen stiff joints and relieve sore muscles.

Related: Best Cold Plunge, Best Home Saunas, and Best Portable Saunas.

12. Consider Sleep Supplements or Medication

If lifestyle changes aren’t helping you sleep better, you can also consider using a sleep supplement13 to help you sleep easier with arthritis. Sleep aids come in a variety of forms, including prescription sleeping pills and over-the-counter sleep remedies.

One over-the-counter sleep supplement that may be helpful is Tylenol PM, which includes an antihistamine that can help you fall asleep and acetaminophen to help relieve pain.13 

Explore our picks for the Best Melatonin Supplements and Best Magnesium Supplements for Sleep.

Be sure to speak to your doctor before using any sleep supplement or medication.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If you’ve tried back or side sleeping with the tips listed above and made lifestyle changes for better sleep but still find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep with arthritis, you may want to consider speaking to your doctor. You might benefit from a change in your treatment plan, especially if your symptoms have become more severe or have further worsened your sleep.

Share Your Arthritis Experience with Us

Best Mattress for Arthritis
Have you been diagnosed with a form of arthritis by a medical professional?
Do you have arthritis?
Does arthritis impact your sleep quality?
Have you tried any of the following to reduce arthritis symptoms/pain at night? (check all that apply)
Have you considered any of the following to reduce arthritis pain at night? (check all that apply)

Sleeping with Arthritis FAQs

What makes arthritis worse at night?

Arthritis symptoms and sleep can sometimes link up to create a cycle of poor sleep. Symptoms like pain or inflammation can keep you awake, while poor sleep can worsen arthritis.1 This is why some people find that their arthritis is worse at night.

What makes arthritis pain go away?

Hot and cold therapy can be a great way to alleviate or reduce arthritis pain, especially at night.12Staying active, maintaining good posture, and keeping a balanced diet can also help manage arthritis pain14.

What foods help arthritis pain go away?

A heart-healthy Mediterranean diet that includes foods like healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds can help reduce inflammation from arthritis. Keeping a plant-based diet or keto diet (a high-fat diet) has also been found to reduce arthritis pain.14

Ashley Zlatopolsky

Ashley Zlatopolsky

Content Writer

About Author

Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based writer and editor who specializes in sleep content. She writes about sleep health, hygiene and products for Sleep Advisor, Mattress Clarity, Real Simple, and more.

Side Sleeper


  1. “Sleep and pain”. Arthritis Foundation. Last modified March 15, 2022.
  2. “Arthritis”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified October 5, 2023.
  3. “Sleep tips for arthritis”. Arthritis Foundation. Last modified March 15, 2022.
  4. “Arthritis”. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Last modified November 2022.
  5. “The arthritis-mental health connection”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified October 12, 2021.
  6. Dunkin, Mary Anne. “Position yourself for a good night’s rest”. Arthritis Foundation. Last modified March 28, 2022.
  7. “Exercising for better sleep”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed January 30, 2024.
  8. “Blue light has a dark side”. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020.
  9. Britton, Annie., Ng Fat, Linda., Neligan, Aidan. “The association between alcohol consumption and sleep disorders among older people in the general population”. Scientific Reports. 2020.
  10. Chung, Nikola, et al. “Does the proximity of meals to bedtime influence the sleep of young adults?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020.
  11. “Stress and sleep”. American Psychological Association. 2013.
  12. Sayre, Carolyn. “Heat therapy helps relax stiff joints”. Arthritis Foundation. Webpage accessed January 30, 2024.
  13. “Sleeping pills”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified April 27, 2021.
  14. Rath, Linda. “Natural relief for arthritis pain”. Arthritis Foundation. Last modified July 7, 2023.