Sweet dreams –yeah right!
Hit the snooze button…
Where’s that damn snooze button?
They do say that there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep – but for most of us living with multiple sclerosis, we wouldn’t bloody know…We’re holding out for Mr Sandman to bring us a dream, but don’t hold your breath!!
If MS has taught me one thing, it’s that you’ve got to be kind to yourself. I don’t mean go mad with the plastic ( oh but it feels so damn good) I mean look after your body – it’s a temple – a sleepless temple but one still the same!
Fatigue is, after all, an invisible symptom of MS, but we all know, only too well, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Listen to your body – and if that means taking regular duvet moments, then do it – and don’t feel guilty, sleep is a luxury, so don’t squander it when you do get it!
It’s hard when people can’t grasp that feeling tired and suffering fatigue are two very different things (the times I’ve heard “ooooh me too, I know how you feel “– makes me want to smash them in the face with a tin of beans) as anyone living with MS will tell you. Tiredness for lesser mortals comes from overexertion ( well boo-fucking-hoo!) and a few extra hours of sleep will do you the world of good. Fatigue, on the other hand, is a never-ending lack of energy and unfortunately, this overwhelming feeling of exhaustion is one of the most common side effects of living with of MS and at least 75% of people with the condition have it at some stage.
It’s all very well being told you need more sleep but, no matter how much we try, it’s still out of our reach. It’s like standing on tiptoes in a bid to reach that bar of chocolate in the back of the cupboard – even though you can touch it, feel it, smell it – you can’t actually get hold of it -meh!
Whilst drugging yourself every night is appealing, sleeping pills might just work if you’re lucky, but don’t actually solve the problem. So it’s up to us to find something that works for us, it’s very individual and everyone’s different in their approach to how to achieve the sleep we need.
When fatigue makes me feel like I’m trudging through treacle, I usually retreat to my quiet corner in a bid to preserve my fast dwindling energy. When the tiredness finally hits, I tend to feel light headed and need to lie down and on average fall asleep within five minutes, easy peasy. Yet in a cruel twist of fate, nighttime sleep evades me.
Fatigue in MSers can feel like your batteries are draining faster than you can plug in your charger and reboot and even the simplest of tasks, either physical or mental is a huge struggle, for no particular reason at all.
The boffins in white coats are starting to identify a very specific type of fatigue that only people with MS experience. They’re calling it “lassitude” and this MS-related fatigue is usually experienced every day and can be much worse than ‘normal’ fatigue. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a good nights sleep, you can still wake up feeling completely knackered.
As with so much of this shitty illness, the exact cause of MS fatigue is unknown. Those in the know believe low energy levels are a result of the brain adapting to damage. It’s also believed that scarring in the brain (another symptom of MS) may well to be a factor.
The Sleep Foundation recently categorised naps into three different types and for us MSers they tend to be part of our everyday life.
• Planned napping: This is actually taking a nap before you get sleepy and as we all know this type of napping is good if we know we’ve got something on and it helps us get through the day.
• Emergency napping: When you hit the what I call “MS fatigue wall” and need to stop what you’re doing and hit the mattress for an emergency nap. It’s an overwhelming need to sit or lie down wherever and whenever it hits me. This kind of napping is useful, but not always possible if you’re in the supermarket or out for lunch!
• Habitual napping: Taking a nap at the same time each day like young children do, as this can really help get through the afternoon slump, which seems even stronger when you are battling MS.
Here are a few things MS patients can do to help with nighttime sleep… I’m sure you’ve heard it all before – but you may just find a few things you didn’t know.
- Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed to produce natural melatonin and serotonin.
- Try & avoid junk food– it’s so tempting to grab those stodgy foods when you’re tired, but a sudden rush of sugar triggers an energy rush soon after your sneaky treat.
- Eat cherries in the evening. Cherries boost the body’s own supply of melatonin.
- Eat nuts, which are rich in selenium.
- Get plenty of natural sunlight to improve your vitamin D levels or take a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Take a siesta – if you’re not sleeping well at night then a short afternoon nap can help recharge your batteries and get you through the day.
- Be sensible with your to-do list to include only essential tasks, and factor in as much rest time as possible in between tasks.
- Lemon Balm Powder is considered a “calming” herb. It’s a natural sleep aid.
- Try taking valerian as it decreases the time it takes for users to fall asleep and in some studies, it lengthened total sleep time and/or improved sleep quality.
- Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It is associated with regulating your 24-hour wake-sleep cycle. Slow release tablets are best
- Take extra calcium and magnesium at night before bed to help with insomnia (this also helps with balancing stress hormones).
- If you’re struggling to keep up with things, ask for advice from your social media Ms friends about how they manage their energy levels.
A good night’s sleep is just what you need if you’re living with MS. So come on, let’s put MS to bed and tuck it in tightly so it can’t wiggle out in the night and give you a prod. Try and find what works for you, it’s out there, you just have to find it – oh and why not treat yourself to some new jimmy jammies, so that if we are lucky enough to have sweet dreams, we’re going to look good having them!
As I’m writing this, it’s 4 in the morning, and after all of this talk of naps, sleep still evades me, but at least I’ve got my mid-afternoon nap to look forward to later… oh the joys of naps, it’s become my guilty pleasure! Here’s my little westie ball of fluff taking his nap, if only it was that easy for me!