Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep

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MS patients are insomnia, nocturnal leg spasms, narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorder, and sleep disordered breathing. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is also highly prevalent among MS patients. One study revealed that among 156 MS patients, 51% met the criteria for RLS based on neurological examination and medical interview and that RLS was associated with higher MS-related disability. Medications used to treat MS may also cause or worsen these problems. The study also showed that pain, medications and frequent nighttime urination influenced sleep among MS patients.

Reducing fatigue and improving sleep is critical to improving the lives of people with MS. There are many options for improving sleep, including both behavioral and pharmaceutical remedies. It is very important that physicians screen for sleep problems among their MS patients and that they are aware of the options to treat them.



Initial symptoms of MS may be brief and mild and usually first occur in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Each MS patient has a unique set of symptoms, depending on where in the brain the destruction of myelin occurs. Some patients are most affected by severe fatigue while others complain of blurred vision and loss of balance. Still others may suffer most profoundly due to loss of bladder and bowel control. MS patients might experience any of these and other symptoms either fully or partially while others go for months or years with no symptoms whatsoever. Another feature of the disease is unpredictability; MS patients may have severe symptoms one day and be symptom-free the next.

Many of the body's essential functions depend on the brain and spinal cord, at least as a relay station, and damage to it in people with MS results in a wide variety of symptoms. Here are some of the most common:

  • Visual impairments – eye twitching, blurred vision, double vision, loss of color vision, blindness
  • Muscular effects – weakness, loss of muscle tone, slurred speech, muscle contractions, foot drop, paralysis
  • Sensory symptoms – numbness, tingling, pain, burning, itching, loss of awareness of location of body parts
  • Coordination and balance
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