When you have multiple sclerosis there are so many factors that can cause fatigue and interfere with sleep quality. But making some specific habit changes really can help to improve your sleep.
Why is quality sleep so important?
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis leads to feeling more energized. But did you know that sleep is important for other aspects of health as well? Some of the benefits associated with good sleep habits include:
- Improvement in memory, cognitive function and ability to focus
- Improvement in C-Reactive Protein (CRP) a biomarker for systemic inflammation correlated to heart disease risk
- Healthy weight maintenance
- A reduction of stress
- A decrease in anxiety and or depression
- Regular sleep patterns may contribute to bowel regularity
Try some of these strategies to improve your sleep habits:
- Stick To A Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Even if you did not sleep well during the night. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps to promote better sleep at night.
- Pay Attention To What You Eat And Drink Throughout The Day Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also, limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
- Create A Bedtime Ritual: Create a period of relaxation before going to bed. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Avoid electronics before bed. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.
- Move Your Body: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Even a brief walk in the morning can help you sleep better at night. If walking isn’t possible, participate in a seated exercise class. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.
- Make Your Bedroom Dark, Quiet And Cool: Install shades that keep out any light, turn clocks away from the bed, use a white noise machine to block out ambient noise and keep the room between 60-67 degrees for an optimal sleep environment.
- Limit Daytime Naps: Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. Don’t take naps later than 1 or 2 pm and limit them to 30 minutes if possible.
- Manage Stress: When your to-do list follows you to bed and you have trouble turning off your mind, your sleep is likely to suffer. To help put your mind at ease, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start by getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Take a warm bath or shower to relax your muscles. Practice meditation. Before bed, write down your to-do list and then set it aside for tomorrow. Check out my article about MS and Stress here for more ideas on ways to improve your sleep.
- Give Pets Their Own Sleep Space— Not Your Bed! This is a tough one. Pets are known to hog the bed (!), snore, and move around during the night. I know mine does! Your comfort and sleep quality are not high on their priority list. If you think your pet is disrupting your sleep give them a dedicated sleep space.
- Combination and/or Timing of Medications: Talk with your doctor about the combination AND the timing of medications you are taking (including over the counter medications, vitamins, and dietary supplements) to see if anything could be contributing to daytime sleepiness or difficulty sleeping at night. Moving some medications from morning to evening or vice versa (if possible) may help.