Since rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects about twice as many women as men, the implications of a new study are especially intriguing. Researchers analyzed questionnaires from 162 RA patients (76% of whom were women) and found that poor sleep quality was associated with greater disability in performing daily tasks such as dressing, walking and writing… more severe pain… increased fatigue… and higher levels of depression symptoms.

It seems like a chicken-or-egg question: Do the aches of RA make it hard to sleep soundly… or do sleep problems lower a patient’s threshold for pain and interfere with day-to-day function? Probably both, researchers acknowledged. But either way, the implication is the same — treating sleep problems with behavioral modifications (such as maintaining a consistent bedtime and waking time, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and limiting bed activities to sleep and sex only) and/or medication may ease RA symptoms and reduce disability. Best: If you have RA, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep.