MS Fatigue or Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Could Be Responsible For Our Fatigue


Fatigue seems to be the number 1 complaint of all the symptoms related to Multiple Sclerosis. This type of fatigue is very hard to explain to those not living with or with someone who has MS. Most individuals who hear the word fatigue think that sleep is what is needed, but more often than not, sleep doesn’t improve this symptom at all. In fact, it is usually the main reason we can’t rest well when we do try to sleep. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about and trying to describe exactly what MS fatigue really feels like. I try to compare it to the extreme tired associated with the flu or having worked hard for several weeks with long hours and no down time to recuperate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem this analysis really gives this word or condition the credit it deserves.

Fatigue can be so pronounced that it can be the main reason for disability all by itself. There have been times when experiencing it at the height of a relapse, that even accomplishing simple tasks have been almost impossible. Many times because of just the fatigue, it has been responsible for me falling, dropping things, memory problems, and other symptoms that MS can cause. It isn’t the cause for yawning or falling asleep from just sitting down; this seems to be another type of fatigue NOT associated with MS. We have all no doubt suffered from the MS form of fatigue as some point or another so I don’t need to describe to you just how rough it can be. MS fatigue is just a COMPLETE DRAIN OF ENERGY, as if trying to function with a dead battery.

There is however another type of fatigue that can be seen in MS patients and many others who do not have our disease. This usually comes from ineffective sleep patterns at night which may or may not be associated with another disease but definitely from a disorder call SLEEP APENA. Those who do suffer from this disorder usually do not even realize that they have this problem. It is usually a loved one or partner who tells us that we snore loudly and then stop breathing for small period of times during our sleep. If we sleep alone, we may find that we are waking up a lot during the night “thinking we have to go to the bathroom”. We are waking up because we have stopped breathing but our bodies give us impression we need to go to the restroom. This condition makes us wake up as tired as we were when we go to bed; usually we often wake up with a headache. We also have trouble concentrating on our jobs or daily chores, and find we easily fall asleep if we sit down to take a break.

Sleep Apnea can lead to some very serious health conditions, most leading to the heart which can result in an early death. As I get older, it has been a topic among many of my peers who have been through a sleep study ordered by their physicians. I would dare say that almost 100% of these people did have some form of sleep apnea and they all required oxygen or a C-Pap machine at night to resolve this issue. Doctors have said that as we age, muscles and tissue in our throats relax causing this condition. After using the machine and/or oxygen, this problem resolved as did most other health related issues associated with sleep apnea. Most people said that their work improved, mood improved, aches and pains lessened, and they were able to go all day without the need to take a nap.

All of us with MS will continue to experience the “MS form of fatigue”, but we may have an exacerbated form from having sleep apnea as well. If you find that you seem to continually experience fatigue even when no other MS symptoms are present, I advise you to talk with your doctor about being tested for SA. Usually it consists of a 1 night stay in a clinic setting being observed and monitored by a machine while you sleep. If you have an obstructive form, it may require an extra night. Other than the inconvenience of having to sleep some place unfamiliar to you, there really isn’t any discomfort associated with this test. The results could actually not only improve the quality of your life but also prolong it too.

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.