Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep – Or Lack Thereof


All of the studies say eight hours is optimal for adults.  A recent study says 7 is plenty.  But all too often, Multiple Sclerosis is the “thief in the night” that steals sleep and leaves us even more tired than the fatigue that we’re often gifted with this disease.

I hear it all the time: “I’m so tired I can’t drag myself to do more than walk from one seat to another all day.  Then I go to bed and cannot sleep.”  It’s sooooo frustrating.  And it continues to feed that same cycle.  Tired, can’t sleep.  More tired, still can’t sleep.  So tired I can’t function, still unable to sleep.  Get pills from doc to sleep.  Take pills.  Sleep (sometimes).  Feel even more cog fog than usual.

Personally, I’m typically fine unless something wakes me.  Whether it be a child or a pain (sometimes one in the same!!), once awakened, I’m done for the night.  I’ll lay there as long as I can stand it – until I realize that I’m telling myself to relax and go to sleep and and my shoulders are up around my ears and I’m squeezing my eyes shut!


What To Do

So – what do you do when you have trouble sleeping?  The first step should really be to identify the cause, if possible.  So – are you waking up to go to the bathroom?  Because of spasticity? Are you stressed about something (we have MS – yep, we’re stressed alright!!)? Are you depressed (again, we have MS – you do the math)? Inactivity?  If you can identify what the issue is – you can begin to address it.  For instance, if you’re having to go to the bathroom several times each night – there’s a good chance that our old friend UTI is in town.  Call your doctor and get on the meds immediately.  Give the UTI a ticket out of town and hopefully your sleep will return. BTW – I’ve noticed a huge drop in UTI recurrence since I started drinking cranberry juice.  It really reduces the recurrence.  Worth a try, right?  Spasticity?  I have a heated mattress padthat I turn on for those nights that I’m all “bunged up”.  I know that this is counter-intuitive since heat is not our friend – but this truly helps my spasticity calm down and allows me to get some sleep (sometimes).  There are also medications and alternative therapies – think massage and essential oils.  Stressed?  Well now – that one’s a bit tougher.  Is there something going on in your life that you can address during the day to help reduce or eliminate your stress at night?  Is the stress the fact that you have MS and you’re concerned about that?  Well – denial is a beautiful thing and has worked wonders for me!!  Alternatively, see a therapist.  It really does help.  Just saying things out loud that concern us – unburdens the mind and may be enough to allow you to get some rest.  And –  the therapist may have some solid suggestions that can help address some real life issues that will, in turn, alleviate the stress and let you get some sleep.  Additionally, here’s a book that I’ve heard good things about.  I haven’t read it, but if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts: Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep: Solutions to Insomnia for Those with Depression, Anxiety or Chronic Pain (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook).

Bottom Line

Sleep is important to every one – even more so if you’re battling a disease like MS.  Don’t just ignore the problem – identify it and deal with it – get help if you need it.  Getting the right amount of sleep can make a huge difference in another of the most common co-morbidities in multiple sclerosis – depression.  When we sleep, chemicals and hormones are excreted in our brain that actually do a lot to maintain brain health and provide mental clarity.  So – darken your room, go to bed at the same time every night, go through a routine that will signal to your body it’s time to wind down, NO SCREEN TIME an hour before bed and utilize the suggestions found in this article.

Do you have any tips and tricks to offer your fellow FUMS’ers?  Please – leave them in the comments section below.  Thanks for sharing.


Sometimes it helps the stress, just to say F-U-M-S!!

5 thoughts on “Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep – Or Lack Thereof”

  1. Timing of meds is very important and I learned that if I “up” my dose of anti-spazz meds (in my csse Gabapentin)it helps with sleep. Ditto meds we take for “energy” such as Provigil, etc. NEVER take them any later in the day than morning (or decrease dose if necessary). These meds WILL keep you awake it taken too late in the day–that’s what they’re prescribed for!
    Un-med -related: I invested in an inexpensive set of BLACKOUT curtains for the bedroom. I had enough “ambient light” from outdoor lights that even with blinds and other curtains, it wasn’t DARK enough. Blackout curtains helped alot!

    A little protein snack before bed (hunk of cheese perhaps?) somehow seems to help me.
    I can’t STOP the spasms or urges that wake me up… but I use whatever arsenal is available. Including turning OFF THE PHONE completely at bedtime.
    Oh yeah: Those delicious naps I take every day? I moved them UP because I was napping too close to bedtime then couldn’t fall asleep.
    Try to ‘schedule” a needed nap so it won’t interfere with falling asleep.
    G’nite now!

    1. great tips most of which i do but i find that if i forget my night time meds i cannot sleep. one small muscle relaxant sets me off for upto 16 hours, i have the opposite problem but hey im not complaining as my 8-10 hours of waking time is productive and reasonable problem free. Big hugs to all out there, lack of sleep is the worst thing, my mother is an insomniac so i feel your pain xx

  2. I spent 22 years in the Navy and served on 6 different ships. One of the things this did for me was make me value the art of being able to fall asleep in a very short period of time. This helps me now and I generally fall asleep within a few minutes of going to bed. Even though I have had 29 years of dealing with ppms, I have no problem falling to sleep. I also take a full dose of Provigil every afternoon, I have to or I get absolutely nothing done, I get real bad fatigue. So, here is my solution, just spend a few years active duty in the military and your body and mind will realize the necessity of needing to take every moment of possible sleep that it can and you will not have any problem going to sleep. I realize that if you have ms you probably wouldn’t be able to take this approach. You can however do a game with your brain and do a bit of self hypnosis. Just picture a quiet and peaceful setting and drive everything else out of your concious mind. Then drift off to a wonderful world of rest.It works for me on those nights of mental overstimulation. You’all take care.

  3. While I don’t have MS, I do have Lupus. I have battled the no sleep thing for years and was finally given a med by a new Rheumatologist. I was also told about an APP for either your iPhone or iPad. It’s called Brainwaves 30 binaural programs. I downloaded it and it was the beat $2.99 I’ve ever spent!!!!! You must use it with headphones as diff sounds are meant for each ear. The beats are not like drums, and you can use it with ocean waves, forest, running waterfall, etc. ..many to choose from. It has programs for energy, meditation, lucid dreaming, relaxing, if you have anxiety etc. Too many to name. It has helped me trememendously…even during the day if I’m feeling anxious. Each program can be customized for length but it does give you a minimum length as the beats change during each specific program so you get the full effect. I wish you all well!

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