Man with MS Sleeping

How to Sleep Better with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can affect you in many ways, like limiting and disrupting your sleep. Frequently, these sleep disruptions are caused by MS symptoms that may be felt gradually over the years.

Doctors can use diagnostic imaging to monitor brain changes that may affect MS patients’ sleep habits and determine the appropriate treatments for each individual.

Alternative medications for MS can also be employed to address sleeplessness issues. You can complement them with soothing methods that can help improve your sleep, such as aromatherapy and meditation.

We have compiled this list of tips and sleep-related information in hopes that you get a better night’s sleep more often than not!

Tips for Sleeping Better with Multiple Sclerosis

People who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are more prone to developing sleep disorders1. The following tips may help you follow a healthier sleeping routine.

Establish Wake and Sleep Routines

Consistently follow your allotted wake and sleep schedule. Developing this habit will train your body to improve your sleep patterns. Try waking up early in the morning and avoiding long naps during the day. You may incorporate calming and winding-down activities before bedtime.

Create a Conducive Environment for Sleep

Your body temperature is higher than normal when you have Multiple Sclerosis. It will help you sleep if you maintain a cool, quiet, and dark room for sleeping.

Invest in an ergonomic bed and pillows so your sleeping position won’t interrupt your sleep if muscle spasms or other MS symptoms occur. Associate your bed with rest and quiet alone. Avoid doing other activities in your bed.

Limit Gadget Exposure

Sleep Better with Multiple Sclerosis - Woman in Bed Watching TV

Mobile phones, TV, and computers may serve as distractions in your sleep schedule. Prolonged screen exposure may suppress melatonin production, which regulates circadian rhythm2.

Instead of checking your phone or watching TV before going to bed, create a nighttime routine that involves relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or doing aromatherapy.

Practice an Active Lifestyle

Even though MS symptoms, like dizziness, fatigue, and pain, may limit your activity, try to do light stretches and exercises during the day – and if you are able to exercise enough to raise your heart rate for 15 minutes each day, do it!

Maximize your exposure to sunlight to keep you alert throughout the day to help signal your body to rest at night. Remember to do these activities three hours before bedtime or earlier. Exercise can keep your mind and body energized and may hinder falling asleep faster.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Your daily nutrition intake does not only help maintain your health to fight Multiple Sclerosis, but it can also improve your sleep.

Stick to a healthy diet and limit your caffeine intake during the day. Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking. Drinking may help you fall asleep, but as the alcohol wears off, it will signal your body to wake again prematurely.

Known Causes of Sleep Disorders in People with MS

Knowing the cause of your sleep problems enables you to address them accordingly. Below are some of the reasons that may affect your sleep.

Muscle Spasticity

Muscle spasms or stiffness can be one of the reasons behind your sleepless nights. Spasticity is a common symptom of MS.

When you experience spasms, your muscles get rigid, painful, and uncomfortable. This pain can definitely mess with your sleep. Lavender, Vitamin C, and Magnesium have been reported to help ease cramps.

Frequent Urination

Another MS symptom that may interrupt your sleep is bladder control problems. Some nights, you may have to visit the bathroom multiple times.

To avoid this, drink during the day and ensure that you have your last drink three hours before sleeping. It is also recommended to reduce caffeine and alcohol intake as these drinks can stimulate your bladder.

Sleep Hygiene

Your behavioral practice in bed can intervene with your bedtime.

Due to the fatigue experienced with MS, you may sometimes use your bed as a workplace and dining area. This habit can distort your sleeping mechanism.

As much as possible, keep your bed as a place of comfort, peace, and sleep alone. Think of your bedroom as a place of Zen with no outside distractions.

Emotional and Mental Factors

Since MS patients deal with stress…overthinking, anxiety, and depression may cause sleep interruptions.

Constant worrying, fear, and lack of peace may disrupt a healthy sleeping pattern and result in other severe disorders. Meditation and private or group therapy can help manage these issues.

Sleep Disorders Associated with Multiple Sclerosis

Experiencing constant/chronic sleep disturbance because of MS can lead to sleep disorders such as the following:

Narcolepsy

This sleep disorder entails extreme sleepiness in individuals during the day with the risk of experiencing hallucinations and sleep paralysis.

Narcolepsy is associated with the lesions that may be present in the hypothalamus of MS patients.

Sleep Better with Multiple Sclerosis - Woman Suffering from Insomnia

Insomnia

This disorder is probably the most common sleep disorder experienced by people with Multiple Sclerosis. It is a condition where you experience difficulty sleeping and staying asleep. Insomnia can affect your mood, energy levels, and overall quality of life.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Rapid eye movement (REM) is different in every MS patient due to the possible damage to their brainstem3.

This disorder may develop into a sleep disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder. This condition involves acting out unpleasant vivid dreams and waking up with sudden and violent body movements.        

Getting Your ZZZ’s

We can all agree that getting a good night’s sleep is important for both your physical and mental health – and without it, your daily life and your mood can suffer significantly. Hopefully, some of the information in this article will help you rest easier. If not, we recommend seeking the help of medical professionals and support resources in your area.

References

  1. Christian Veauthier, Sleep Disorders in Multiple Sclerosis. Review, retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25773000, Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2015 May;15(5):21. PMID: 25773000 DOI: 10.1007/s11910-015-0546-0
  2. Stephanie Buxhoeveden, MSCN, MSN, FNP-BC & Abbey J. Hughes, PhD, (n.d.), Sleep and MS: Strategies for Improving Your ZZZ’s, retrieved from https://www.cando-ms.org/online-resources/can-do-library/sleep-and-ms-strategies-for-improving-your-zzzs
  3. Sleep Foundation, (n.d.), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Sleep, retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/multiple-sclerosis-and-sleep

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