Sleep and MS

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” (Thomas Dekker)

10.29PM

Bathroom trip 1. Exactly 9 steps between my bed and my ensuite bathroom. The Body Scan meditation on Spotify awaits on my return to bed. I’m so tired that I fall asleep with the mobile on my chest.

1.30AM

Bathroom trip 2. Exactly 15 steps. Waterworks are on strike. This equates to singing at least two songs while staring at the ceiling. Cold feet, cold knees. Shuffling back to bed. Seems my sleep patterns are on strike, also.

3.10AM

It’s sinful wasting so many sleepless hours on what should be a rejuvenating process. The cycle is endless: waking up from facial pain because I slept on my left side, followed by not being able to fall asleep because of the pain. I feel like I need a rubber hammer to knock me out cold for a few hours.

4.49AM

Bathroom trip 3 and 4. Still awake. So tired that even my thoughts have turned gibberish.

7.41AM

Now I’m annoyed. Being woken up by the house alarm next door is like an elephant stepping through the cutest little flowers in your backyard. But, it doesn’t matter now, time for a breakfast of medications and strong hot coffee.

I’m sure sleep will find me sometime during the day.

The National Sleep Foundation states that 2 out of 3 people with chronic pain have difficulties sleeping. Because pain is a sensory problem that occurs when nerves are being sharply stimulated, it activates the brain, and therefore keeping you awake.

Like so many others with MS, fatigue has a big impact on my life. Not only do I have daytime moments where my energy levels seem to literally drain through my feet into the ground, but sometimes it slowly gets worse before even talking becomes something I can’t do anymore.

To add insult to injury, for the last 14 years, continually interrupted sleep patterns during the night caused by chronic pain sets the tone for the day to come, and in the following night. When asked if I can remember the last night I slept well, I say, “Sorry, I can’t remember what a good night’s sleep feels like.”

It’s vital to try and improve your sleep hygiene if you want to lead a happier, more productive, focused life. It also makes you feel less hungry and ward off infections.

Tips

  • If you want to track your sleep patterns and measure the quality of your sleep, there are plenty of apps that can give you some idea. Sleep as Android uses the sensors in your mobile phone and gives you a detailed overview of how you sleep during each cycle, when and how loud you snore etc.
  • Take this sleep habits assessment to check if you get good sleep.
  • The benefits of a 6-minute power nap have shown that it can sufficiently improve memory performance on a test of word recall. Next time you feel quick-fix, go for it!
  • When you wake up and feel yourself getting more uneasy because you can’t seem to fall asleep, get up and focus on something else aside from not being able to sleep.
  • While exercising is a perfect way to improve your sleep patterns, make sure you don’t do so four to six hours of going to bed. The same goes for caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake.

More references

5 Things To Know About Sleep Disorders and Complementary Health Approaches

Multiple sclerosis and insomnia

The underdiagnosis of sleep disorders in patients with multiple sclerosis

Sleep.org, by the National Sleep Foundation

Body scan meditation, by Stanford University

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