60% of all those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) also suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Fatigue is a more common symptom than even the well-known tingling and numbness that patients with MS experience.
Kathleen Costello from the National MS Society explains that we don’t have a concrete, scientific reason why this is the case. But, researchers hypothesize that it is the symptoms of MS that lead to poor rest, and this bad rest builds up over time creating a consistent sleep disorder.
The most common sleep disorders for MS patients are-
- Movement disorder related to sleep
- Breathing disorder relating to sleep
- Circadian rhythm disorders
These can affect any MS patient at any age.
Christopher Lock works for Stanford Health Care. He explains how the more nerve transmission is interrupted in the body, the more sleep disruption you’ll experience. In other words, the more progressive your MS, the worse you’ll sleep.
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to improve your sleep. Below are some of the common issues and some potential solutions.
Issues and Solutions
Nocturia is a condition where patients wake up numerous times in the night to use the restroom. It is an issue for 80% of all patients. One way to combat this is to decrease the liquid you consume right before you go to sleep. A reduction/elimination of alcohol and caffeine before bed can be of special benefit.
Muscle spasms, tingling, and numbness are common symptoms of MS. Since the sensory pathways are damaged, the pain sensation is increased. Thankfully, there are some things patients can do to relieve symptoms and ease sleep.
Regular exercise, aquatic therapy, and stretching can all provide benefits. Even daily chores and small changes like going up the stairs instead of the elevator can make a difference. Botox can be another option to help to release tension.
If your mental health is not stable, it can be difficult to sleep. Therapy to work through depression and anxiety can be a good option. Short-term relief can be found through progressive muscle relaxation and other relaxation techniques.
1/4th of MS patient face insomnia. But not all of these individuals have received the proper diagnosis or treatment for this condition. If you are suffering from insomnia, there are some medications that can be effective. These are not meant to be used long-term but can be advantageous while you explore other sleep strategies.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
There are some very simple steps we can all take to help improve our sleep environment. For example-
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Be consistent.
- Sleep in a cool room (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Try to minimize your use of technology right before bed. Lessening blue light stimuli can make sure your circadian rhythm stays in tact.
You can read more about these tips here.