Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on August 23, 2022
3 min read

People with multiple sclerosis often have trouble sleeping soundly, but the problems may not be due to the disease itself. Stress, spasticity in arms or legs, inactivity, or depression that can come along with MS can interfere with a good night’s rest. In some cases, MS lesions at certain spots within the brain may also keep someone from sleeping normally.

Whatever the cause of your sleep issues, some simple fixes may help you get more shut-eye.

Talk to your doctor about your problem. They can help you figure out how to solve it and get back to better Zzz’s.

If a medical problem like spasticity, bladder trouble, or depression is keeping you awake, talk to your doctor about treatments that relieve those conditions.

A consistent bedtime routine can also be a big help. Try these tips:

  • Relax in the evening before you go to bed. Try to not rehash the day's problems or worry about tomorrow's schedule. If it’s hard to turn your brain off, try routines that can help you wind down, like meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Go to bed when you're tired. Try to hit the sack at about the same time every night.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after 10-15 minutes, get up. Don’t lie in bed and watch the clock or count the cracks in the wall. Find something to do that’s relaxing to you, such as working on a puzzle, reading, or writing a letter to a friend. Rather than watching TV, which doesn’t require effort, do something active so that your natural tiredness can build up. But don’t do that activity while you’re in bed -- keep the sheets for sleeping and sex.

Follow these tips, too:

  • Try not to sleep during the day. If you nap, don’t snooze for too long or near bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol within 4-6 hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t smoke before you go to sleep or during the night.
  • If running to the bathroom is keeping you awake, try to drink less in the evenings. Get your recommended amount of fluids during the day instead. And use the restroom right before you go to bed.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry or soon after a heavy meal. If your stomach is growling, eat a light snack or drink a glass of warm milk.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably during the day. Avoid vigorous exercise 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Set your alarm to wake you up at the same time every day, even on days when you're off work and on the weekends.
  • Try having a white noise device in your room.
  • Wearable devices such as a FitBit,  Apple watch, Garmin, and Whoop, can help you keep track of your sleep.
  • Technologies such as Apollo wearable can also deliver light vibrations to the skin at different frequencies and intensities, which may help to positively alter the nervous system to improve sleep

If you still can’t seem to get enough sleep, talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out what's going on. They can also refer you to a sleep specialist if necessary.