Naps and MS: Readers' Stories

Turns out that lots of us take (lots of) naps...

Indian woman napping on sofa
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For some of us, life with multiple sclerosis (MS) means fantasizing about sleep during the day, due to crushing MS-related fatigue. When night comes, we often feel nocturnal, kept awake by restless legs syndrome and nocturia, or awake not refreshed because of sleep apnea (all of which are very common in people with MS).

Recently, I have had several days where I was not able to nap at all during the day, due to things I had to get done.

Usually, I might grab a 30-minute nap after lunch, which will usually get me to bedtime. However, I was happy that I could make it through with no nap if necessary.

That does not mean that the nap-free me is full of energy until the wee hours. Now, when I sit down in the evenings with my husband, I might fall asleep in the middle of a story he is telling. Trying to watch a movie when it is dark outside means instant and deep slumber, usually around 9:30. I will wake up at 11:00 to drag myself to the bedroom and fall asleep again pretty quickly. When I was napping, I had problems falling asleep and staying asleep - those issues are gone now, at least.

I posted the following question: When does everyone "crash"? How many naps do they take? When? When does everyone fall asleep at night?

These are some of the comments that I received:

  • Sleep seems not to be my friend most of the time. On a night that I give myself an injection or a night with lots of MS symptoms, it takes time for me to sleep and I wake up numerous times in the night. I fall asleep usually around 11:30 to 12:00. I do need naps after lunch when at work to get me through the rest of the day.
  • I work afternoons/evenings from home and never seem to be able to nap during the day. I DO try to “chill” after lunch to get ready for work. Every 6 – 9 months I have what I call a “crash and burn” day where I sleep/rest all day! I have been doing this for years (diagnosed in 2010) — now I know why. I just had one this past Saturday — was mentioning to my husband last night as I volunteered to be a substitute Sunday school teacher for the Fall and was wondering about the wisdom of that… I think deep down my body knows (like this past Saturday) that there is nothing scheduled for the day and gives me “permission” to just take a break. If I was smarter I would schedule a day off every 6 months in anticipation! Just last week a very close friend said “aren’t you about due for a ‘crash and burn day’?”
  • I find that I usually fall asleep sometime about 1 PM if I am reading in my chair with my feet up. When that happens, I have a refreshing nap. However, I do not necessarily need to have one unless I have had a busy morning. If I have had a busier than usual morning, a nap is a necessity. I have found that if I split my magnesium supplements up by taking one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one before bed, that I have more energy during the day, my legs are not as likely to get “heavy”, and I sleep much better at night and wake up refreshed.
  • I work full-time and because of family/financial circumstances, it is important that I continue to work. As such, work is my priority. I get through the day without napping, but when I get home at 4:30, I do lay down and sleep - sometimes for an hour, sometimes for several hours. Then I get up, eat, do a few things around the house (maybe!) and go back to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 and usually sleep soundly through the night. I asked my neuro how would I know whether I NEEDED to rest/nap/sleep or whether I was being a lazy butt. She said it DIDN’T MATTER! Just rest. So I do and my family leaves me alone when I sleep.
  • I have adjusted my schedule at work to be able to sleep in until 8:00 am. Then right after my lunch break, I have to do a 15-minute power nap at my desk that carries me for the rest of my day. Most days I require some sort of nap time
  • Lately, I’ve been sleeping incessantly during the day. For example, today after I got the kids off to school I napped from about 9:30 until 10:50. I am now still tired. I have to do some grocery shopping and a bit of housecleaning, but will probably take another nap this afternoon. All I can think of lately is sleeping.
  • I also work full-time and napping is difficult during the weekday. I keep a yoga mat and pillow at work, and if I am really dragging, I close my door and rest in my office during lunch. Other times I occasionally take a 30-minute nap after work, which really revives me.
  • Oddly enough my best time is after 9:00 p.m. but I have learned the hard way to go to bed because if I don’t, the next day I will crash mid-morning.
  • I have to work full time for as long as I can. I often talk about having a “siesta,” but it doesn’t happen. Most days I work while I have lunch. I am exhausted when I get home after 9+ hours M-Th. I lay down while watching the news. Most nights I’m asleep by 8:00 PM, if not sooner. Many nights I still wake up for an hour at 2:00 or 3:00 AM, and am usually up by 4:00 or 5:00 AM. Sleep and I don’t have a good relationship. I like it, it doesn’t like me. On top of MS I also have sleep apnea.
  • Now it’s summer and I am sleepy most of the time. I slept all day yesterday and slept last night just fine. That’s a lot of sleep. Today I am up late. This usually runs in a 3-day pattern. I can go for 3 days then crash with the usual MS symptoms for 3 days.
  • It depends on what is going on in my life, where I am in my cycle, if I’ve forgotten my meds that day, and my stress level. Just like my entire life, basically only more often and it hits me so much harder since a year before my diagnosis. There has to be another word we can create to describe the fatigue and exhaustion… those just don’t quantify the true experience. Lately, I have been hitting the sack between 5:00 and 7:00 PM – sleeping for a couple of hours and getting back up until 10:00 or 11:00. I cannot sleep more than 8 hours due to my body being affected with pain after laying down so long. And I do certainly do not want to be awake at 3:00 am on a workday.
  • I can’t take naps because as soon as I relax my spasticity kicks in. Once I get home from work I try to do some stretching. Usually after 8:00 I take my meds for pain and spasticity, then go to bed about 9:00. It’s a good night if I only get up once – this happens typically around 1:00 AM, sometimes earlier. Then again around 3:00 AM. I have to get up at 4:30 AM for work, so getting a good night’s sleep is so nice – when it happens.
  • I have only recently started to view my MS sleepiness as a hindrance. After 10 years, the blessing of being able to fall asleep before my eyelashes touch each other has faded, only to be replaced with the same fatigue but also wakefulness halfway through the night. If my legs twitch, I’m up till dawn.
  • If I’m very busy and working on a project that involves a lot of standing, I will “hit a wall,” and I just have to sit down and rest. My body will just not do what I tell it to. It’s aggravating, but usually, a nap will restore some of that, not all, and I have to take it easy for the rest of the day.
  • When do I crash? When I’ve eaten – even a small meal. When it’s over 24ºC and airless indoors. When I’m working – reading or writing. When don’t I crash out? At night when I go to bed!
  • I had to quit work and get on disability because my MS is progressing. I take naps throughout the day and usually fall asleep around 1:00 am. I wake up at least twice during the night. The meds that I take three times a day make me sleepy, too.
  • Everyone said what I’m feeling! I wish I could take a nap at lunch, but if I tried someone would bother me, either in my office or car. Also, I’m a single parent living with my parents (due to financial and health problems). Some days I work for 8 hours, some for 9 hours, some for 10, etc. If I could lie down and rest when I get off work, I WOULDN’T know what to do! My son would let me but my parents wouldn’t. I go to sleep around 9:00 or 10:00 and get up at 7:00. I take Ambien but still wake up at least 5 times a night.

Bottom Line

Seems like for many people with MS, naps are almost as essential as oxygen or food. When at all possible, if you can grab some sleep during the day and your body tells you that is what it needs, then you should absolutely take a nap. I have found that the time I devote to naps is returned to me in increased productivity and just feeling human.

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