Sleep Disorders and Their Relation to MS

Sleep Disorders and Their Relation to MS

8679Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is

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a disorder in which your immune system attacks the myelin sheath covering your nerves. The myelin sheath is there to protect the nerves from damage, as well as facilitate communication. However, when the myelin becomes damaged, there is a disruption in communication between the body and brain. Eventually, the nerves deteriorate, which is currently an irreversible process.

The symptoms of

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MS vary, depending on the amount of damage there is and which of the nerves have been affected. In some cases, individuals who are suffering from severe MS could lose the ability to walk- either independently or at all. On the other hand, there are some individuals who have reported long remission periods in which no new symptoms develop.

At this time, there is no cure for MS. However, there are some treatments available that can help to speed up recovery from the attacks, modify the course, and manage the symptoms.

MS Signs and Symptoms

As mentioned, depending on the nerves that are affected and the amount of damage that has been done, the signs and symptoms of MS will vary. Following are some of the most common:

  • Weakness/numbness in one or more limbs- typically occurring on one side of the body
  • Partial or complete vision loss, often accompanied by pain with eye movement
  • Double/blurry vision
  • Tingling/pain in body parts
  • Tremor, unsteady gait, lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Electric-shock sensations occurring with specific movements of the neck- especially upon bending the neck forward
  • Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction
  • Fatigue

Fatigue and Multiple Sclerosis

As seen above, fatigue is one of the common symptoms experienced with individuals who have MS. However, one new study suggests that this fatigue could be a sign of an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Research has proven that sleep disorders are very common among individuals suffering from MS, but typically these go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. When these sleep disorders are not treated, it could have an effect on the progression of the disorder as well as the overall well-being of the individual.

The frequency of sleep disorders, the problems with sleep patterns and the complaints of excessive sleepiness during the daytime are all indicative of sleep problems being a hidden epidemic in those who suffer from MS- completely separate from the fatigue experienced by MS patients.

One study, which was published online in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, took 2,400 individuals– mostly women, and mostly white people. The average age was 54 years old. These participants were given a survey which asked about their sleep history, their experience with daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and RLS. Around 52 percent of the participants reported needing 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, and around 11 percent required medication to help them to fall asleep.

The study revealed that around 70 percent of these individuals suffered from at least one sleep disorder. Around 38 percent of those suffering from a sleep disorder were give the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, around 32 percent suffered from at least moderate insomnia, and approximately 37percent suffered from RLS, or restless leg syndrome.

Most of the participants who showed a sleep disorder in this study had been previously undiagnosed. Of those who were suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, only 4% had actually been given the diagnosis by a physician.

Treating Sleep Disorders and MS

As you can see, the above study revealed that sleep problems and disruptions are very common among individuals suffering from MS. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you have a good night’s sleep.

First of all, try to relax in the evenings before you go to bed. Don’t worry about what you’re doing the next day or what went wrong that you couldn’t control that day.

When you’re tired, go ahead and get in bed- but try to be consistent with the time you go to bed. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes- get back up. Don’t watch

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the clock or count cracks in the wall or ceiling. Find a relaxing activity such as putting together a puzzle, reading a book, or even writing. Watching television is a passive activity, so you want to avoid that.

Make yourself comfortable- wear comfy pj’s, get your pillows in a comfy position, make sure the temperature is not too hot and not too cold, and turn off all lights and technology (phone, computer, television, etc).

Some other suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Don’t take long or late naps during the day.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol within 4-6 hours of your bedtime.
  • Avoid nicotine in the evenings close to bedtime.
  • Reduce fluid consumption in the evenings if bathroom runs are keeping you up. However, make sure that you still get the recommended amount of water during the day. Make sure you go to the restroom right before going to bed.
  • Don’t go to bed after a heavy meal or go to bed hungry. If you’re hungry at bedtime, get a light snack with warm milk.
  • Make sure to get the recommended amount of exercise daily, just not close to bedtime.
  • Set your alarm to wake up at the same time every day- even your days off work and/or weekends.

About the Author

541480_10151782779092178_1954746168_nHobson Lopes is a 2012 graduate of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn. He is a professional writer and author of a cookbook for men called Men Cook Too. He is also the owner of The First Pitch and can be followed on Twitter.

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