A wise soul once said, “Naps may be the best-kept secret to a happy life,” and to be quite honest, I couldn’t agree more!
Only a few weeks ago, I broke my own rather dubious record of “hours slept in one day.” Power naps may work for some, but with multiple sclerosis fatigue as my most disabling symptom, six and a half hours of sleep during the day was, in my view, a little over the top. This amount of sleep, however, was due to an illness, and not a daily activity.
With many of us battling MS fatigue, there is something to be said about sleep hygiene, i.e. techniques to help you sleep better. After 11 years of living with MS, I know my sleep habits inside out, including when it is time for me to retire to my sleeping abode.
When fatigue starts to slowly creep up on me, I usually stop talking to try to preserve energy. Otherwise, when the tiredness finally sets in, I feel an inherent need to sit or lie down, and fall asleep in less than five minutes. Lastly, a rather funny way of knowing fatigue is about to knock me out is that I become light-headed and silly.
No matter which type of fatigue arrives (or remains) on my doorstep, I always need to handle it in a proactive way, by eating healthy food, exercising, taking medication and managing daily tasks. I also typically try to stick to short naps, as they less often lead to longer solid nights of sleep, without disrupting my sleep pattern. The benefits of short naps are legion; NASA recently researched how power naps could benefit tired military pilots and astronauts over time. Their results showed a 34% increase in performance and a 100% improvement in alertness after just a 40-minute nap!
Another organization, The Sleep Foundation, recently categorized naps into three different types and explained the benefits of each type:
• Planned napping: This is defined as taking a nap before you get sleepy, for example when you know you will need to stay awake later than usual. With MS fatigue, however, this type of napping almost becomes essential in just making it through the day.
• Emergency napping: When you are hit with a tremendous amount of fatigue and need to immediately stop the activity you were engaged in, you are emergency napping. This is the type of fatigue I refer to as “No-can-do-anymore fatigue” as I almost literally need to sit or lie down wherever and whenever it hits me. Emergency napping is useful, but not always possible due to the location where it hits.
• Habitual napping: Taking a nap at the same time each day like young children and adults do can be helpful in getting through the daily afternoon slump, which seems even stronger when you are battling MS.
According to WebMD, short naps (up to 30 minutes) have brain-boosting benefits and can help improve creativity, alertness and performance, reduce mistakes and enhance mood. Short naps can also help to reduce stress and decrease risk of heart disease. You can take a quiz about why you need your ZZZs on WebMD here.
To ensure you get the most out of your napping, your sleep environment needs to be quiet, peaceful and light and temperature need to be regulated.
As I’m writing this, it’s early in the morning, and after all of this talk of naps, I think it might be time to take one!