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Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep

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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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Understanding the Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis

In some ways, each person with multiple sclerosis lives with a different illness. Although nerve damage is always involved, the pattern is unique for each individual with MS. Specific experiences with MS may vary widely, but doctors and researchers have identified several major types of MS. The categories are important because they help predict disease severity and response to treatment.

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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.
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