Just Take a Nap!
Last updated: June 2019
As most people know, multiple sclerosis (MS) comes with a great deal of fatigue. Even after a solid 8 hours of sleep, I can wake up feeling terribly fatigued and that heavy feeling of fatigue often remains or gets worse over the remainder of the day. Fatigue can be a pretty difficult concept to describe to people who don’t experience it themselves and how can I blame them for not “getting it”?
A nap makes everything worse
I’ve had MS for almost a decade, and I’m still not sure if I fully understand it! So, it’s not at all difficult for me to understand how the majority of people might see me being fatigued as me just being tired which, if you have MS you know, is not the same. But if you don’t understand how being fatigued is not the same as just being tired (even if it looks like it is) then more than likely the solution seems simple to you; just take a nap! I hear that so often and maybe, for others living with MS, that may very well be the best solution, but for me? A simple nap tends to make everything so much worse.
Napping ruins my sleep routine
Ironically, another common symptom of MS is insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep). I have been at war with insomnia for longer than I can remember, but after all the prescription medication, supplements, and home remedies for insomnia that I have tried over the years, the thing that I have found to work best (for me) is developing a consistent sleep routine. Basically, I go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends). It took me a long time to make this work, but I rarely experience insomnia as I did before. This is where taking a simple nap becomes so consequential for me. Taking a nap in the middle of the day results in me not being able to fall asleep at night which means I’m going to wake up later in the morning. Because I woke up later, I’m once again not going to be able to fall asleep at night and just like that? My consistent sleep schedule has been disrupted meaning I am not just fatigued throughout the day, but I am also dead-tired.
I don't really know how to nap
But ruining my consistent sleep schedule isn’t the only reason I have for not napping when my fatigue is at its worse. I also don’t let myself nap because, well, I guess I just don’t know how to nap. What I mean is, it takes me so long to fall asleep (sometimes up to an hour), and then once I do fall asleep, I can’t get myself to wake up! So instead of a 1-hour nap, I’ll take a 4-hour mini-coma that leaves me feeling groggy for the rest of the day. I just don’t get how people can take a 1-hour nap or a 20-minute cat-nap! How is that possible? Anyway, the whole point of my nap was to feel a little less “tired” and to feel “refreshed,” but instead? I feel even worse than I did before! Now I’m still fatigued, but I also feel extra heavy, unmotivated, and, typically, irritable. Especially when my brain feels extra scrambled by the 4-hour-long nap full of weird half-awake, half-asleep dreams I usually have that leave me questioning reality the rest of the day. “Did that really happen or was that just a dream? What day is it? Should I be making breakfast?”
As you can surely imagine, all of this is extremely frustrating especially when you hear others talking about how great they feel after a nap, when you listen to people talking about how much they cherish their nap time, and when you have 5 cats that all nap around the house throughout the day. It’s so not fair! It’s like all those little, sleepy, poof-balls are just lying around mocking my inability to sleep! Ok, maybe that’s just the post-nap irritability talking, but still! Even more frustrating, to me, is when someone I have explained all this to before, responds to my being extra fatigued by saying, “Just take a nap,” as if it were that simple.
Are naps part of your daily schedule? How often do you nap and for how long? Do you feel that naps help? Or are you like me and end up just doing more harm than good with a nap? Share below!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: