How much sleep do lupus patients need?

People with lupus often experience fatigue and sleep problems. Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for lupus patients to maintain their health and wellbeing. But how much sleep do lupus patients actually need? Here we provide a quick overview of sleep recommendations for people with lupus.

The Importance of Sleep for Lupus Patients

Sleep is vital for everyone, but especially for people with chronic autoimmune diseases like lupus. During sleep, the body repairs itself and restores depleted energy levels. Sleep also allows the immune system to function properly. For lupus patients, poor sleep can worsen symptoms and increase inflammation. Some key points on sleep and lupus include:

  • Lack of sleep is linked to increased lupus disease activity and flare-ups.
  • Good sleep quality helps the body better cope with pain, fatigue, and other lupus symptoms.
  • Getting enough sleep can improve mood, cognitive function, and quality of life for lupus patients.
  • Sleep disturbances may be an early warning sign of a lupus flare.

How Much Sleep Do Lupus Patients Need?

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health, but lupus patients often require more. Here are general sleep recommendations for people with lupus:

  • Aim for 9-10 hours of sleep per night during lupus flares when the body needs extra rest.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep during non-flare periods to support immune function and prevent flares.
  • Listen to your body’s needs – if you feel tired or fatigued during the day, you likely need more sleep.
  • Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times daily.

These are general guidelines only. Some lupus patients may need more or less sleep based on factors like medications, activity levels, and whether they have other health conditions. Work closely with your doctor to determine your optimal sleep needs.

Tips for Getting More High-Quality Sleep

Many lupus patients struggle with sleep problems like insomnia, restless legs, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Here are some tips to get more restorative sleep:

  • Optimize your sleep environment – Use blackout curtains, set the temperature between 60-75°F, use a white noise machine, and ensure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
  • Wind down before bedtime – Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine like taking a bath, reading, or doing light stretches.
  • Avoid screens – Don’t use phones, tablets, computers, or TVs for 1-2 hours before trying to fall asleep.
  • Cut off caffeine – Avoid coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and other stimulants at least 8 hours before bed.
  • Limit daytime naps – Short power naps are OK but limit them to 30 minutes max and don’t nap too close to bedtime.
  • Ask your doctor about medication – Sedative hypnotics, sleep aids, or pain medication can help improve sleep quality if underlying issues are addressed.

Developing good sleep habits and addressing any underlying contributors to insomnia or fatigue can help lupus patients get the high-quality restorative sleep their bodies require.

The Link Between Sleep and Lupus Symptoms

Research shows that poor sleep negatively impacts lupus symptoms in multiple ways:


Excessive fatigue and exhaustion are some of the most common lupus symptoms. Lack of restorative sleep exacerbates normal fatigue, making it difficult to function during the day. Getting adequate sleep can significantly improve energy levels.


Sleep disturbances can amplify pain perceptions. Getting enough sleep enhances the body’s natural pain relief mechanisms. For lupus patients who experience joint pain or headaches, improving sleep is an important part of pain management.


Insomnia and other sleep disorders are linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Mood disorders are already more common in people with lupus. Prioritizing sleep can help minimize negative mental health symptoms.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Many lupus patients experience “lupus fog” – issues with memory, concentration, and clear thinking. Lack of sleep worsens these cognitive problems. Getting adequate rest improves mental clarity and function.

Immune Function

Sleep is necessary for proper immune system functioning. For lupus patients, poor sleep can impair the immune system and promote inflammation, potentially triggering flares. Restorative sleep strengthens the immune system.

Optimizing sleep is a key way lupus patients can manage symptoms, improve wellbeing, and reduce flare-ups.

Common Sleep Disorders in Lupus Patients

Many lupus patients experience specific sleep disorders that can severely impact sleep quality and quantity. Common sleep disorders seen in lupus include:


Difficulty falling or staying asleep affects up to 70% of lupus patients. Contributing factors include pain, depression, medication side effects, and inflammation. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can help.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, where breathing stops and starts during sleep, occurs more often in lupus patients. This leads to poor sleep quality and daytime drowsiness. Sleep apnea can be treated with CPAP machines or oral appliances.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Up to 44% of lupus patients have restless legs syndrome. Uncomfortable sensations in the legs cause difficulty falling asleep and frequent night waking. Lifestyle changes, medication, compression stockings, or massage can help manage RLS.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Involuntary jerking movements of the arms and legs during sleep disrupt sleep continuity. This condition is also more prevalent in lupus. Treatment involves identifying and addressing any underlying causes.

Treating sleep disorders can dramatically improve sleep quality for lupus patients. Diagnostic sleep studies help identify underlying issues.

The Impact of Medications on Sleep

Many medications commonly used to treat lupus and its symptoms can also impair sleep. Examples include:

  • Corticosteroids – Steroid medications like prednisone can cause insomnia. Taking the dose early in the day may help.
  • Antimalarials – Hydroxychloroquine and similar medications can cause vivid dreams and nightmares.
  • Immunosuppressants – Drugs like methotrexate, azathioprine, and cyclosporine sometimes cause sleep disturbances.
  • Blood pressure medications – Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics may exacerbate sleep disorders.
  • Pain relievers – NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and opioids can affect sleep cycles and architecture.

Talk to your rheumatologist about any sleep problems you experience related to lupus medications. Adjusting the time or dose may help minimize side effects.

The Impact of Lupus Flares on Sleep

Sleep difficulties and increased fatigue are often one of the first signs of a lupus flare. Disease activity directly disrupts sleep in several key ways:

  • Increased inflammation causes general discomfort, making it hard to fall or stay asleep.
  • Pain and arthritis symptoms peak at night, interrupting sleep.
  • Immune activity increases at night, contributing to sleep difficulties.
  • New neuropsychiatric symptoms like anxiety or depression disrupt sleep patterns.

Poor sleep can also trigger lupus flares by impairing immune function and worsening symptoms. It becomes a vicious cycle. Getting extra sleep during flares helps break the cycle and aids recovery.

Tips for Better Sleep During Lupus Flares

Getting adequate sleep during a lupus flare is essential but can be challenging. Here are some tips to help improve sleep when your symptoms are elevated:

  • Clear your schedule – avoid obligations and take time to rest.
  • Optimize your bedroom environment for sleep.
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or massage.
  • Try natural sleep aids like chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, or magnesium.
  • Listen to soothing music or nature sounds.
  • Consider blackout eye masks and ear plugs to block excess sensory input.
  • Keep a notepad by your bed to jot down any racing thoughts.
  • Use layered bedding you can adjust for temperature regulation.

Be patient with yourself and recognize that quality sleep is essential to your health. Enlist help from loved ones and prioritize rest during flares.

When to Seek Medical Help for Sleep Issues

If you consistently have trouble getting enough sleep or have symptoms of a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. Seek medical help when:

  • You regularly take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
  • You often wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep.
  • You don’t feel rested even after getting enough sleep.
  • Daytime fatigue interferes with your activities.
  • Your partner notices you snoring, gasping, or stopping breathing during sleep.
  • You experience uncomfortable sensations or frequent leg movements at night.

Your doctor can recommend sleep studies, lifestyle changes, medications, or other therapies to improve your sleep. Treating sleep disorders is key for managing lupus.

The Bottom Line

The majority of lupus patients deal with sleep disturbances and not getting enough high-quality rest. Prioritizing sleep is essential to improve symptoms, wellbeing, and quality of life. Most lupus patients need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Setting up your sleep environment, sticking to a routine, managing stress, and treating any sleep disorders can help optimize your sleep as a lupus patient.

Leave a Comment