Community Views: How to Treat MS Painsomnia
Life with MS is draining! On top of the fatigue - which feels like trying to go through life while constantly swimming in quicksand - everything seems so much more exhausting than life before an MS diagnosis. Many suffering from MS will certainly try to get some rest and will end up failing miserably at that endeavor because of “Painsomnia”. Painsomnia is the inability to sleep or rest because your body is in pain.
When pain interrupts sleep, what can we do?
There is a wide range of different pain and sensation experiences that can affect those with MS's ability to sleep. Although getting enough sleep while living with MS is not impossible, it often requires extra effort.
To find out what the community is relying on in order to get better sleep, we reached out on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page and asked: “Have you ever experienced painsomnia (the inability to sleep or rest because your body is in pain)? If so, what solutions do you recommend?” More than 400 people responded. Here is what was shared.
Use more pillows
Sometimes simple solutions are worth a try. A couple of community members shared that they use pillows to elevate affected areas. This keeps painful parts of the body from touching other parts of the body or the mattress. If these community members can get enough pillows in the right places, then they stand a good chance of a full night’s sleep.
“Must use a ton of pillows because nothing can touch.”
Ice the affected areas
Placing ice packs on affected areas can help numb the pain. And many people find that soothing enough to fall asleep.
“Ice bottles help me relax so I can rest.”
Eat carbs right before bed
For some people, filling up on carbs just before bed helps lull them to sleep despite the pain. Carbs can help the body release serotonin, a feel-good chemical that makes us sleepy. Carb-rich foods like crackers, when combined with cheese, can also help release tryptophan, which also makes the body sleepy. Eating anything right before bed can also make your stomach less sensitive to any painkillers you may take to fall asleep.
“I will get up and eat a small bowl of cereal with milk. The carbs make me tired and protect my stomach so I can take aspirin (my preferred pain killer).”
Take prescribed sleeping pills
Many in the community shared that the only way they can get to sleep and stay asleep is with the help of prescription drugs. A doctor can not only prescribe medicine, but help you determine which kind is best for you. That could be a sedative and hypnotic, or it could be a drug that treats anxiety and helps you relax.
“I must take 10 mg Ambien to knock me out to override pain to sleep.”
“I take Xanax to try to help me get to sleep and melatonin to try to help me stay asleep. Usually after 2 hours of no relief, I will take Tylenol PM and another Xanax. I may get 4 hours of light sleep from that.”
“Sleeping pills are what I must do. They knock me out to sleep.”
MS versus sleep
Painsomnia is really 2 problems: the pain of MS and insomnia. This means it can be medicated in 2 ways: drugs that make you sleepy and drugs that get rid of the pain. For some people, treating the pain is the faster route to falling asleep. Gabapentin is one of the drugs that combat pain rather than making you sleepy.
“Gabapentin and ropinirole.”
“Gabapentin and melatonin to try to help me stay asleep.”
“Gabapentin at bedtime usually helps.”
Fatigue is a common symptom for those with MS and painsomnia doesn't seem to make that any easier. To really survive that crushing fatigue, you need a good foundation of rest that is, unfortunately, very hard to get because of the MS-related pain that many of us experience.
There is power in community knowledge. We are so grateful to receive such sound advice from such an engaged community. If you’ve got a solution that helps curb your painsomnia or makes bedtime a little less painful, I’m sure the MS community could benefit from hearing it. We encourage you to share in the comments.
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