MS and Fatigue: New Light On Why

Can you imagine a day where you’re not yawning at 3:00 p.m., or a day when you wake up in a bright and cheery mood, full of vigor and energy? Sadly, in today’s world, there are few who can. Getting enough sleep to feel rested and ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you is something that’s become a rarity in these busy times. In this hectic and stress-filled world we live in, fatigue is becoming an increasing problem. Imagine, however, having to deal with a chronic illness on top of feeling fatigued every day—welcome to the world of people who suffer from multiple sclerosis or MS. A new development may provide a glimmer of hope, though. Scientists have made an interesting connection between MS and fatigue and another chronic condition known as sleep apnea.

What is the link that ties these three together and what does it mean for people who have MS? Multiple Sclerosis is a disease where constant inflammation interrupts the workings of important nervous system functions. Patients with the disease can experience a wide array of symptoms. For most, fatigue—or a chronic feeling of tiredness—is a normal part of living with the condition. Researchers, however, have found that many patients who have MS and complain of tiredness may actually have a different cause for their fatigue, a condition called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where a person briefly stops breathing during sleep. These nighttime interruptions can make a person feel drowsy and fatigued the following day. The idea that the fatigue could be traced to a different source than the MS is something few had thought about before. This new information could prove valuable in a number of ways.

Recognizing that sleep apnea, a treatable condition, could be causing fatigue, is good news in the sense that this is a treatable condition. Patients that have a history of MS and also complaining of fatigue should not put off being tested for sleep apnea. Early diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can help prevent MS from progressing and can even eliminate some of the symptoms.

Another positive side to these findings is that, with improved sleep, the immune and nervous systems are strengthened, which is crucially important in the body’s fight against MS. For an MS sufferer, just knowing that their fatigue may be caused by a sleep disorder could potentially improve their well-being and quality of life.

If you or a loved one is suffering from MS and fatigue, ask your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea. It may be a factor and it is treatable.