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Tackling Multiple Sclerosis: Sleep It Off!

Ever since being diagnosed with MS in October 2000, one of my key mantras has been to sleeeep iiiiit ooooofff!!! The careless but straightforward neurologist who diagnosed me actually gave me one piece of good advice, and that was to get plenty of sleep in order to maintain a normal lifestyle. He wagged his finger at me and told me to do 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, and 8 hours of rest every day, and no more than 40 hours of work every week.

The “rest” part seemed a bit cryptic to me at the time, since he’d already addressed sleep – so what did that mean exactly? I quickly learned that it just means not to extend the “work” part but rather to extend the more restful, relaxing parts of my life.

Every time I’m starting to fight a cold or am not feeling well, what do I do? Sleep it off! Even on a normal day, I sometimes doze off in front of the TV after dinner, sitting on the couch, and I realize afterward – usually after an hour of being mostly asleep but waking up during the loud advertisements – that I actually feel pretty refreshed! And it’s usually about 11:00 p.m. at that point, so I have to take a shower and go to bed!

How Can You Get Enough Sleep?

I’ve figured out how to get enough sleep to help tamp down my MS despite the fact that I’ve lapsed on the saying “no” to things. I’m involved in far too many initiatives and organizations, plus I have a full-time job as a medical editor, but I’m always sure to get lots of catch-up sleep on the weekends.

Many so-called experts say you can’t catch up on sleep, but I beg to differ. I sleep in until about 11:00 a.m. on Saturdays, and I must admit, even then I sometimes hit the Snooze button after the 10-hour sleep! And since I wake up to go to church on Sundays, I always take a good hour-plus nap on Sunday afternoons. And all of that extra sleep is probably why I am able to, as my Dad says, “have a lot of irons in the fire.”

I also take about 2 milligrams of Melatonin every night except Friday nights. That truly helps me fall asleep when I want to, and I can even fall back to sleep after taking our dogs outside in the middle of the night!

How Much Is Enough Sleep?

I mentally scoff whenever I hear that cynical phrase, “You’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.” Um, yeah, maybe you’ll be sleeping if you’re in Hell!?! :) That’s actually when I look forward to being awake and not having to sleep anymore, not being exposed to waste or evil anymore. I don’t know how it works, but I have faith it does.

So this world is where to get caught up on sleep! As far as how much is enough sleep for yourself, go with your gut, and pay attention to how refreshed you feel after shaking off the proverbial cobwebs in the mornings. If anyone points the finger and tries to tell you what’s best for you insofar as sleeping, remind them you have MS and that it can be an art to deal with it. ’Nuff said.

Keep track of how much sleep you just had, and how you feel. I need to get at least 6 1/2 hours of sleep every night during the week in order to feel refreshed enough the next day, and not tired.

But that’s just me. Everyone is different, so figure out where to carve out your best times to sleep in and when to take a nap as necessary, and what your own best sleep patterns are.

Speaking of which, it’s time to go to bed. Good night!



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