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MS Fatigue: Again

So we made it through another season of eggnog, latkes, candy canes and too many late night visits with old friends and family.  Now what do we do to move on from the holidays?  It you’re like me these days, you might collapse and begin the impersonation of Rip Van Winkle, the guy of legends who slept through  20 years.

The need for sleep descended on me a few weeks ago and it’s not something that I can easily ignore.  My husband definitely notices when I nod off while he is talking and he tries not to take it personal.  I really do find him engaging most of the time, but his familiar voice gently lulls me into that trancelike state that precedes sleep.

I also find myself once again nodding at my work desk – this fortunately seems to only happen when I am alone and no one else is around.  It doesn’t happen often enough to be considered  regular narcoleptic episodes but I still have problems shaking it off and staying alert when that heavy cloak of weariness covers me. Unfortunately it’s not a cloak of invisibility that gives me superpowers to disappear and really take that quick doze while no one is watching.

We’ve had a lot of gray days lately and I know that affects my energy levels in extreme ways, so I broke down and bought a happy light at the local warehouse club.  These lights have bulbs that mimic the sun’s rays and the thinking is they help the brain out of a depressive state caused by the lack of natural light.  I turn this on every morning while I’m puttzing about in the kitchen – I soak up 10-15 minutes of extra rays every morning. The light is almost blinding but I honestly don’t know if it is making a difference because I am still exhausted.  My husband, who doesn’t get the science behind the happy light, suggests I wear sunglasses while it’s on to protect my eyesight.

An extra dose of modafinil (generic for Provigil) as prescribed by my neurologist only carries me so far in a little extra boost – it mainly accelerates my heart rate but not my energy levels. The same goes for the coffee – sipping an extra cup or two for the caffeine boost also gives my  GERDs some fits but at least the indigestion pain keeps me awake.

As I type this at 1:00 in the afternoon, it’s hard to stop yawning and my body is craving sleep; it needs it  and obviously lots of it since I already had 9 hours of sleep last night.  Even the suggestion of sleep here as I type puts me under the spell and I find my eyelids growing heavy and I momentarily nod off.   Only the quick, unexpected jerking of my head brings me back to the present.

Could I blame this tiredness on age?  I do have a sign from a friend that proclaims ‘At my age, Happy Hour is a nap!’ I laugh at how close to the truth this really is…. Naps do make me very happy, but especially if they last longer than an hour.

Of course it is simplest to blame being bone weary tired on the MS – it’s a handy subject to blame most ailments on and MS fatigue is at the top of the list of complaints for most of us. MS fatigue is so common that if you google the term, you will instantly be rewarded with 50,200,000 hits of articles on the internet that mention “MS Fatigue.’  Sorry, but the whole idea of  sorting through that many articles to find suggestions for fatigue really wears me out.

There is a  scientific term for our MS fatigue and maybe it would sound more significant  if in place of saying I’m too tired to do something, I replace it with my lassitude is in a flare and we will need to reschedule.   There’s nothing better than a little used, unknown  medical term to get people to appreciate  the gravity of a condition.

Whatever the cause, I’m tired of being tired and  I’m sure a number of you reading this would agree.  Just don’t use too much of  your precious energy reserve to nod your head yes.

Wishing you well,


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.


  • Twinsphins
    5 years ago

    I can usually fight through the feeling “tired” fatigue but it’s the muscle fatigue especially in my legs that get the best of me.By 1pm I’m generally shot…and very frustrated because the rest of the day very difficult.Enjoy going to the gym and cooking but doing less of both lately.

  • smalltowngirlbigtimelife
    5 years ago

    I refer to MS fatigue as my “Ultimate Arch Nemesis.”

    Throughout my life I have faced the relentless demand fatigue places on my body and well-being. Of all of the crippling effects of this chronic disease, it is the fatigue that I find most devastating to my success as a person and a professional. I honestly cannot say that at this point in my life, not a day goes by where I do not experience fatigue to the point where I am forced to alter plans, reconsider my choices, and verbalize a few choice words for those I hear around me complaining of being a “little tired” or “under the weather.” What I wouldn’t give to have my best day equate with their worst.

    I have struggled with unnatural fatigue for nearly as long as I can remember. I vaguely recall trying to play soccer as a young elementary school child and being unable to complete the rudimentary laps and drills. My legs simply would not work the way I wanted them to, and I was often jealous of the ease with which my teammates completed the simple exercises. I thought I was merely out of shape at the time, and that with hard work, I would be able to compete with my peers.

    The years went by, and I worked hard to develop my athletic skills and abilities. But I often remained a step or two behind no matter how many extra sprints I performed at the school yard across the street from my home. As I got older, the fatigue only continued to increase, often leaving me lying helpless in my dorm room unable to join in the fun my teammates were having down the hall. I can still remember their probing questions, asking why I slept all the time. I was tired. That’s all I knew, and I wanted people out of my business.

    Eventually I left dorm living for a house off campus. Doing so provided greater privacy, and I felt more free to rest as my body demanded. My health started to improve, and I experienced a period of time where I almost felt normal. I rode my bike almost daily, and I was able to my attend classes and coach my basketball girls. My health wasn’t perfect, but it was better. Looking back it was a special time in my life.

    A little over ten years later, I continue to battle my demons. I have lost my marriage, many of my friends, and career ambitions in part as a consequence of my body’s struggle to fight this illness. I have battled through a complete identity crisis, and I have survived. I will never again be who I was, but I am excited about becoming who I am.

  • Carrie G.
    5 years ago

    My comment to Marc Stecker on his article today re; anti-virals and MS is pertinent here also, since it describes my own successful treatment for fatigue.

  • mamak1118
    5 years ago

    I don’t know how you are able to work with MS. I mean, I do work full time, but many afternoons I leave early because I’m just so drained. I can’t take Provigil or Adderall or any of those meds because of high blood pressure. I drink coffee, but that makes me more jerky (physically and emotionally) than anything else. I guess maybe I could try the happy light…? What exactly is it, and where did you find it?


  • Louisa
    5 years ago

    When using a ‘happy light’ it needs to be no further than 24″ from your face. Yes, it’s bright and you want to have it slightly to the side and not directly in front of you so that you won’t look directly at the light.

    I usually take about 20-30 minutes to sit still, read or go through paperwork or catch up on the morning news with my light on!

    It’s worth it!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    I have mine on the kitchen counter and I have a stool where i can sit and just sort of wait around for my tea or coffee to be done and be within a couple feet of the lamp. Even if I don’t have time to sit for that long and that close, it feels like i am getting a bit of benefit from it being on and my being within six feet or so. I’m so glad you say it works for you. perhaps I will move mine to be on my table by my chair…. ~Laura

  • Pam
    5 years ago

    i find myself taking a nap almost daily. I just cant stay awake! I know I’ve overdone it lately so I kinda expect this. but still sucks.

  • mary
    5 years ago

    I just turned 66 and have dealt with the fatigue since I was in my 40’s. That was my first symptom and I have not found anything that helps. I took adderall the last 3 years I taught school to help me focus more that relieve my fatigue. Now it takes real effort to do anything. I do try to keep active for mental and physical reasons. Between the pain and the fatigue, I often feel very depressed. Luckily I have a friend with a chronic disease I can talk with. I guess there are so few of us and we don’t look sick so research is not a priority for the medical field. Hang in there and keep in touch with others who share your problems.

  • mary
    5 years ago

    I just turned 66 and have dealt with the fatigue since I was in my 40’s. That was my first symptom and I have not found anything that helps. I took adderall the last 3 years I taught school to help me focus more that relieve my fatigue. Now it takes real effort to do anything. I do try to keep active for mental and physical reasons. Between the pain and the fatigue, I often feel very depressed. Luckily I have a

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    Those daily naps might feel like an indulgence Pam, but it is your body telling you that they are necessary if it happens almost every day. Don’t fight it! -Laura

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