One thing I have noticed over the past few years is that I do not sleep well at all. Ever. I have tried a plethora of medicines – some natural, some prescribed from the doctor and some complementary (and perhaps some interventions that are little more than quackery…) and yet a deep and restful sleep is something that still evades me. I know that this is a commonly reported symptom of MS, and sadly seems to be one that so many people struggle to get treated appropriately – myself included.
My problem is not so much that I cannot get to sleep. I just can’t seem to stay asleep. There never seems to be that same level of restfulness or deep sleep that other people seem to achieve.
I wonder if much of MS related insomnia is associated with secondary symptoms rather than it being caused by the MS itself. Although it would appear that lesions in the brain could cause disturbed sleep patterns, this is reported to not be the prevalent cause of insomnia in the majority of cases of people with MS. In fact (and I would say my insomnia is no different), the increased prevalence in people with chronic illnesses is typically due to stress, chronic pain, bladder problems, and restless legs for example. It’s pretty challenging for anyone to remain asleep when there’s a niggling feeling in your bladder that you need a wee at any moment!!
Although lots of patients have similar symptoms, the disease itself is very individual. This means that treating insomnia caused by MS is also pretty unique to every person. I’m not an expert in this so if you’re suffering from insomnia, you’d be best to go to a healthcare professional to get some advice on your personal problem taking into account your circumstances. It might be the case that your team is able to help with some other symptoms such as pain or bladder problems which goes a long way to helping with your insomnia.
There are some things that I have started doing to try and reduce my issues with sleeping and you might find these useful too…
🔹 I have started making sure that I have a very fixed bedtime and morning routine. No matter what day it is, I always go to bed and get up at the same time
🔹 I have increased my exercise levels which has made me physically tired, reduced some of my MS pains, but also increased serotonin
🔹 I have removed all electronic things from my room and made sure I have no blue light around after 7pm
🔹 I have given up caffeine (which incidentally helped with my bladder issues too but that’s for another blog perhaps!?)
🔹 I have invested in a little heated blanket which reduces pain and relaxes me. It’s so lovely to snuggle up to and I’m sure to fall asleep with the blanket which has helped to reduce pains
I do still suffer with insomnia but these tips have helped me make it a little more bearable. Having spent some time recently with an occupational therapist, I have also started recognising the importance of blocking time out in my diary every day for just resting and relaxing. It may be the case that I fall asleep (and that’s ok) but having that time for reading a book, watching trashy TV or doing some puzzles is just as revitalising and refreshing.
Hi I am Zoe, I was officially diagnosed with Rapidly Evolving Severe Relapse Remitting MS in 2013 (although they think I have had it since about 2002). Since then I have been on a bumpy journey of ups and downs to where I am today. I have a background in science, and am a qualified teacher. As a former scientist, I enjoy keeping up to date with the most current research for MS, and am always keen to promote how we can use it to better educate ourselves and take ownership of our own health and wellbeing. I am an MS Reporter with Shift.MS – a charity and online community run by MSers, for MSers. I believe that although we have MS, we are not defined by it. It is but a tiny part of a much wider and picture.