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Sleep and MS: Strategies for Improving your zzz's

"Sleep is a surprisingly complex process that is essential to maintaining health and wellness. Unfortunately, problems with sleep quantity and quality and the negative impact of poor sleep on daily functioning are particularly common among people with MS, affecting 50% of the population.1 Sleep disturbance may arise for a number of reasons, including MS disease activity. For example, sleep can be affected when MS lesions occur in areas of the brain that are responsible for governing sleep and circadian rhythms (i.e., sleep-wake cycles within a 24-hour period).2 Sleep problems can also occur as a consequence of the many co-occurring, or co-morbid, symptoms that go along with MS. Some of those uncomfortable symptoms include, but are not limited to, medication side effects, fatigue, and issues related to mood and/or anxiety. Lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and environmental factors such as bedroom characteristics (e.g., temperature, light, etc.) can also influence sleep.3 Compared to people without MS, people with MS are also at greater risk for developing medical conditions such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movements (PLMS), and restless legs syndrome (RLS), which interfere significantly with sleep quantity and quality.

When possible, determining the cause of the sleep disturbance is an important, if not essential first step toward treatment. Although some some causes of sleep disturbance in MS are quite treatable, other causes may not be directly treatable. Thus, addressing the sleep disturbance itself may be helpful for reducing common MS symptoms like physical and cognitive fatigue, which are worsened by poor sleep."

Continue reading to learn more about why having MS can affect your sleep, and get tips on how to overcome sleep issues.

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