Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Medically Reviewed on January 16, 2014 by George Krucik, MD, MBA
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A Tiring Condition
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory joint condition, is best known for the joint swelling, pain, and stiffness that it causes. But those who suffer from RA know that this autoimmune disorder also can lead to serious fatigue.
Fatigue can make it hard to get through your daily activities at home and work. Click through the slideshow to learn some tips and tricks to handle this challenging symptom.
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Don’t Take It Personally
You should recognize that feeling tired is part of the condition. It’s not a weakness on your part—fatigue is something that everyone with RA must learn to manage.
It’s important to understand this and prepare to make any changes that are necessary, rather than deny the fatigue you’re experiencing. If you’re realistic about your condition and symptoms, you’ll be more likely to successfully lessen or overcome them.
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Revise Your Schedule
Adapt your schedule to help control your fatigue. How you change your daily schedule depends on your personal needs. It also depends on when the best time is for you to rest and sleep.
For example, you might consider beginning your activities each day a few hours later than usual. By doing so, you can sleep in and may also have an easier time with RA-related morning stiffness.
Another option is to plan a regular afternoon rest time. For some arthritis patients, a midday nap provides more energy to get through the day. Talk with your doctor about how revising your schedule may help with your condition.
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Balance Rest with Activity
Everyone needs to allow time for rest. When you have RA, getting adequate rest is particularly important. It’s important, however, to not be completely inactive. Doing too little can also lead to fatigue, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Do some light exercise every day to help keep your joints in shape and avoid muscle deconditioning. Research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews has shown that physical activity can help people with RA manage fatigue. Regular exercise can make it easier to get a good night’s slumber.
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The Snooze Factor
People with RA have special challenges when it comes to sleep. For example, you may:
have a hard time falling asleep due to pain
wake up from pain before you’ve slept long enough
frequently rouse while trying to sleep
Trouble sleeping at night can make you feel drowsier during the day. Consider resting and taking daytime naps. If you have tried lifestyle changes like daily exercise and changing your sleeping and rest schedule and you still have trouble sleeping and, talk to your doctor about possible sleep aids.
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Since RA may make you tire more quickly than other people do, you need to make choices about how to spend your time and energy. When you conserve your energy by skipping certain physically strenuous activities, you may be able to do something more important later.
Decide which activities are your top priorities and save your peak times of the day for those things. While it’s never easy to turn down things you want to do, being more selective can help you conserve the energy for what matters most to you.
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Delegate When Needed
One of the best ways to get more energy is to draw on the strength of others. Friends and loved ones can lend you their energy and support when you feel tired. Asking for help can make it easier for you to accomplish what you need to do.
If it’s difficult for you to reach out for help, think about exchanging errands with someone. Perhaps you can ask someone to do something for you when you’re too fatigues, and return the favor when you have more energy.
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Research published in Arthritis and Rheumatism found that RA patients experience a more severe form of fatigue than everyday tiredness. It can be “extreme, often not earned, and unresolving,” according to the researchers.
According to Rheumatology, fatigue related to RA can feel “overwhelming” and seriously affect your quality of life. It’s important to learn how to effectively address your fatigue.
By following proven tips and consulting with your doctor, you’ll have a better chance of feeling less tired and managing your symptoms.