Three Thoughtful Ways to Banish MS Fatigue and Sleep Problems in 2019

Last updated: February 2019

You don’t have to call it a resolution. You can simply decide enough is enough! You want your daytime energy back and you want to achieve a better night’s sleep.

The two are not mutually exclusive, after all. Too many naps during the day mess with your nighttime circadian rhythms. Insufficient or disrupted sleep at night lends itself to daytime fatigue.

And let's not forget...

On top of that, you have MS! That means pain, spasticity, medication side effects, cognitive “fog,” and other reasons to experience sleepiness when you don’t want to, or vigilance when all you want is to shut your eyes and fall asleep.

Here are three things you can try to reset your rhythms. They may or may not work, but they’re worth a shot.

Prioritize nighttime sleep and daytime alertness this year

The better sleep, the more likely you can achieve some healing in your central nervous system, plus you’ll have more daytime energy, an elevated mood and disposition, and maybe even some pain relief, in the bargain.

Review all of your medications and supplements closely

Identify the ones which might be keeping you up at night or making you drowsy during the day. You can do this by taking your list of meds to your pharmacist, calling your insurance company prescription service (they have nurses that can help), or paying a visit to your doctor (primary or MS specialist).

Don’t stop taking anything! Instead, ask about the timing of your medications; might some be better taken at night, or in the morning? Are the dosages correct or should they be adjusted? Are there side effects to these, related to daytime sleepiness or insomnia, that you aren’t aware of?

Use the healthcare professionals you have

This should be a team decision. Use the professionals you have at your disposal. While you remain in charge of your protocols, new research and ideas are always popping up that you can discuss with your doctors and pharmacists. Knowledge is power.

Other substances

Don’t leave out other substances, like cannabis products. Look for interactions, as well. For instance, if you’re taking baclofen, it might make you sleepier than you realize, especially if you’re also using medical marijuana.

An overall review of your daily “cocktail” can help you fine-tune your therapies, which could be beneficial for both your sleep and wake cycles.

Look at the timing of your activities

When you perform your physical activity might have a bigger impact on your sleep and wake habits than you think. Physical activities include exercise classes, walking or cycling, physical therapy sessions, yoga sessions, working with weights, housekeeping, gardening… anything where you are physically active.

Morning is ideal

Morning is the best time for most physical exertion because it helps support a healthy circadian rhythm. If you can go outside for your physical activity, all the better! That added boost of sun will also help you maintain a healthy level of vitamin D.

If you are not a morning person (I am definitely not a morning person, myself!), you can still exercise at other times of the day. The later into the day you start, however, think about milder exercise and less exertion. Too much exercise, too late in the day, may make it hard to fall asleep at night thanks to all those stress hormones that can kick in following an intense regimen.

Build in rest periods

Other “activities” could include rest periods for those of us with MS. Build these in with intention. Short periods (30 minutes) of rest throughout the day are great opportunities for recharge. Try to avoid long afternoon naps as they can have a negative “reset” impact on your sleep drive, and can make it hard to fall asleep at your usual bedtime.

If you really can't get through most days without a 2- to 3-hour nap, you might need to see a sleep specialist about an undetected sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless legs, or other disruption that requires treatment.

Consistent sleep-wake schedule

And while we’re talking about timing, consider enforcing a consistent bedtime and rise time if you haven’t already. One of the best ways to keep your circadian rhythms on task is to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule.

Find diverse pain relief options

Pain and discomfort caused by rigid muscles, stress headaches, flushing, injection site soreness, and flares can indirectly mess with your daytime energy as well as sabotage a good night of sleep.

Medication options

There are a number of ways to help reduce pain and discomfort related to MS symptoms or medication side effects. Medications like gabapentin and baclofen can be a person with MS’ best friend. So, too, can over-the-counter options like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Other supplements

Some have found topical or consumable forms of cannabis products to help them with their neuropathy. Supplements that provide relief from inflammation, like turmeric or magnesium, seem to help some people with MS. But you don’t necessarily have to “take something” for your pain and discomfort.

Other non-substance options for relieving pain and discomfort include:

  • Use of a transcutaneous electronic neurostimulation (TENS) device
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Yoga, as well as yogic breathing and yoga’s cousin, meditation
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic

One last hint

In all cases, no matter what you decide to do, or how many ways you decide to tackle your particular pain symptoms and adverse effects, don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

Dehydration can often be a hidden cause of low-level, chronic pain and discomfort, and it can lead to trouble with kidney and liver function which, unfortunately, can lead to other kinds of pain.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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