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Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep

Sleep problems, or disorders, are conditions that prevent a person from getting restful sleep and as a result, cause daytime sleepiness. There are about 80 different types of sleep disorders and about 70 million Americans suffer from them. The inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep, called insomnia, is the most common sleep disorder.

Many people with multiple sclerosis complain of insomnia or broken sleep patterns, yet sleep problems may not directly be the result of the disease itself. Many sleep problems occur because of secondary factors such as stress, spasticity, inactivity, or depression that people with MS often have. Other symptoms of sleep problems may be caused by the location of MS lesions within the brain.

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People with MS often have trouble staying asleep because of spasticity, especially in the legs, or an increased need to go to the bathroom at night because of bladder problems. Talk to your doctor about what is keeping you up at night; there may be medications he or she can prescribe to improve the problem.

How Can I Get a Good Night's Sleep With Multiple Sclerosis?

If you have multiple sclerosis, one of the most important ways to ensure a good night's sleep is to create a consistent bedtime routine. Here are some tips to get you sleeping soundly.

  • Relax in the evening before going to bed. Try to not rehash the day's problems or worry about tomorrow's schedule.

  • Go to bed when you're tired. Try to be consistent about the time you go to bed.
  • Prepare yourself for bed by wearing comfortable nightclothes, adjust your bed pillows in a comfortable position, turn off the lights, adjust the temperature in your bedroom, and position yourself comfortably in your bed.
  • If you do not fall asleep after 10-15 minutes -- get up! Do not lie in bed and watch the clock or count the cracks in the wall. Find something to do that is relaxing to you, such as putting together a puzzle, reading, or writing a letter to a friend. Rather than watching TV, which is a passive activity, do something active so that natural tiredness can build up. Remember your bed is only for sleeping. Any of the above activities should be done out of bed. Return to the bed only when you feel tired.

Also, try to adhere to the following suggestions.

  • Avoid sleeping during the day; if you nap, do not nap for long periods of time or near bedtime.
  • Do not consume caffeine within four to six hours of bedtime
  • Do not smoke or use nicotine products close to bedtime or during the night.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages within four to six hours of bedtime.
  • If running to the bathroom is keeping you up at night, reduce fluid intake in the evening. It is still important to drink the recommended amount of fluids during the day. Also go to the bathroom immediately before you go to bed.
  • Do not go to bed hungry or soon after a heavy meal. If you are hungry, eat a light snack or drink a glass of warm milk.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably during the day. Avoid vigorous exercise three hours before bedtime.
  • Set your alarm to wake up at the same time every day, even on days when you're off work and on the weekends.

If these suggestions do not help or if sleep disturbances are interfering with your daily activities, talk to your doctor who can help you determine what's causing your sleep problems. Your doctor can also refer you to a sleep specialist, if necessary.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 13, 2014
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