Characterized by severe pain, redness and swelling, and tenderness in joints, gout is a common but complex form of arthritis. It can affect anyone—young, old, and every age in between—bringing on attacks that are so intense the pain can even wake you up in the middle of the night.
While there is no surefire way to prevent gout pain, there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms and reduce the likelihood of a flare-up. To ensure you return to restful slumbers, let’s take a closer at this condition and how to stop gout pain at night.
Understanding Gout and the Risk Factors
Widely considered the most common type of inflammatory arthritis, gout causes sudden and intense joint pain, usually in only one joint at a time. Often it’s found in the big toe, the ankle, and the knee.
Gout develops in people with high levels of uric acid from the breakdown of purines, a natural substance found in human cells and many foods like red meat and seafood.When uric acid builds up, either naturally or from a high-purine diet, it can form needle-like crystals that can lodge in joints, causing the sudden pain and swelling gout sufferers are familiar with.
Gout attacks can be sporadic, occurring irregularly and with no warning. While an episode may last a week or two, another may not occur for months or years later. This can be quite distressing as one may never know when their next flare-up will happen. Moreover, recurrent gout attacks that aren’t treated may eventually involve more joints, and episodes may last longer and become severe.
With that said, to understand how to stop gout pain at night, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors that can make you more susceptible. These include:
- Family history of gout
- A diet high in purine-rich foods, e.g., red meat, tuna, sardines, and scallops
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Are overweight
- An unhealthy gut, i.e., your gut’s microbiome is unbalanced
- A chronic condition, e.g., heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes
Why Is Gout Pain So Bad at Night?
Gout attacks are most prevalent at night, with research indicating a flare-up is 2.4 times higher during the evening than during the day. While the exact cause is unknown, researchers have a few theories as to why gout worsens when you’re asleep:
- Drop in body temperature—During sleep, the body’s temperature drops slightly, which may induce uric acid crystal formation in the joints.
- Dehydration—As the body loses moisture during sleep, the concentration of uric acid in the blood increases.
- Changes in breathing—The breath slows when asleep, as does the release of carbon dioxide from the lungs. The extra carbon dioxide can increase the acidity in the blood, triggering the production of uric acid. Additionally, sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes the body to take in less oxygen, may cause the body to produce more purines, spurring on a gout attack.
- Cortisone levels drop—Cortisone is a hormone the body produces less of when sleeping. Cortisone suppresses inflammation, so it’s thought that the lack of cortisone production during the night may contribute to inflammation in the joints.
How To Stop Gout Pain at Night
The pain of a gout flare up can be uncomfortable, making sleep impossible and diminishing your quality of life. So, what can you do to get your flares under control and stop gout pain at night?
The first step is to speak to your doctor about taking uric acid-lowering medications. In addition to this, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to ensure high-quality sleep that remains uninterrupted.
1. Stay hydrated
Carrying a water bottle is one of the best ways to prevent dehydration and ensure you’re meeting the recommended daily water intake. To determine your intake, take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs should drink about 75 ounces of water per day.
Additionally, it’s important to factor in your location, activity level, and any medical conditions you have when gaging your water intake as these will influence how much your body needs to stay hydrated.
2. Avoid alcohol and purine-rich foods
3. Opt for cold compresses
A cold pack or compress reduces swelling and inflammation as the cold restricts blood circulation, thus numbing gout pain. Cold applications have also been shown to be significantly more helpful in relieving joint pain than heat. To make your own cold compress, use a frozen water bottle or ice from your freezer and apply to the afflicted joint.
4. Get sleep apnea treatment
Did you know that those with sleep apnea are 50% more likely to suffer from gout? This suggests that getting sleep apnea treatment alone may be enough to reduce the frequency of gout attacks. Treatment for sleep apnea usually includes the use of a CPAP machine, which provides continuous positive airway pressure to increase oxygen intake while sleeping.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene
Practicing good sleep hygiene is the process of implementing habits into your nightly routine that ensure a good night’s rest. This means going to bed at the same time every night, getting seven to eight hours of sleep, avoiding caffeine in the evening, and staying off of electronic devices.
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