12 things your MS health team want to know about your sleep

Sleep, or lack of it, is a common topic amongst people with MS. It's no secret how important sleep is to our overall health and wellbeing but sometimes MS can make it difficult.

Despite knowing how important it is, and how awful sleep problems can be, often it's not on our list of symptoms to talk to MS specialists about.

There are lots of reasons for this, but the most important thing to know is that your health team can help you. But first, they need to know what problems you're having, and what's worrying you.

We spoke to sleep expert Catherine Siengsukon and she advises:

"The first step to address your sleep concerns is to prepare and have an informed conversation with your doctor."

You can prepare by monitoring your sleep for a month and make notes to answer the following 12 questions.

In the past month...

  1. How long, on average, has it taken you to fall asleep?
  2. How many hours of sleep, on average, did you get per night
  3. How many times, on average, did you wake up per night?
  4. How many minutes per night, on average, did you spend in bed awake, unable to fall back asleep?
  5. How rested, on average, did you feel upon waking in the morning?
  6. How often, on average, did you take naps during the day?
  7. How often did pain interfere with your sleep?
  8. How often did spasticity or restless legs/ limbs/body interfere with your sleep?
  9. How often did urinary or bowel symptoms interfere with your sleep?
  10. How often did you take medication (prescription or over-the-counter) to help with sleep?
  11. How often did you snore or experience shortness of breath upon waking?
  12. How difficult was it to maintain alertness and energy during the day?

Catherine also advised:

"Your doctor may ask you additional questions about your sleep issues, review your medications, and conduct a thorough medical evaluation. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo an overnight sleep study in your home or in a laboratory, if warranted. "

"Depending on the type of sleep problems you are having, you may benefit from working with different healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, neurologists, sleep medicine specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists."

If you want more advice on sleep you can read Catherine's full guide "Practical sleep information for people with MS"

If you're interested in tracking your sleep you can do this in Emilyn. You can record detailed notes after your check in and export them as a PDF to take with you to your next appointment.



1. Brass SD, Li CS, Auerbach S. The underdiagnosis of sleep disorders in patients with multiple sclerosis. J Clin Sleep Med 2014;10:1025-31.

2. Bøe Lunde HM, Aae TF, Indreva˚g W, et al. Poor sleep in patients with multiple sclerosis. PLoS One 2012;7e49996.

3. Merlino G, Fratticci L, Lenchig C, et al. Prevalence of ’poor sleep’ among patients with multiple sclerosis: an independent predictor of mental and physical status. Sleep Med 2009;10:26-34.

4. Siengsukon CF, Aldughmi M, Kahya M, et al. Individuals with mild MS with poor sleep quality have impaired visuospatial memory and lower perceived functional abilities. Disabil Health J 2018;11:116-21.

5. Braley TJ, Chervin RD. A practical approach to the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders in patients with multiple sclerosis. Ther Adv Neurol Disord 2015;8:294-310.

6. DiGerolamo T. Let’s find better sleep. MS Focus Magazine. Available at: https://msfocusmagazine. org/Magazine/Magazine-Items/Posted/Let-s-Find Better-Sleep.

7. Siengsukon CF, Alshehri M, Williams C, Drerup M, Lynch S. Feasibility and treatment ef fect of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in individuals with multiple sclerosis: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Mult Scler Relat Disord 2020;40:101958.

8. Siengsukon CF, Al-Dughmi M, Stevens S. Sleep health promotion: practical information for physical therapists. Phys Ther 2017;97:826-36.



National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Sleep webpage: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy -Behaviors/Sleep

Sleep Disturbances and Multiple Sclerosis: http:// www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Documents/Sleep_Hughes _2016.pdf

Sleep Disorders and MS: The Basic Facts: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure Sleep-Disorders-MS-BasicFacts_FINAL.pdf

Importance of Sleep webinar: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Programs-and-Services/Programs/Importance-of-Sleep-December-13

Managing Pain and Sleep Issues in MS: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Programs-and-Services/Resources/Managing-Pain-and-Sleep-Iss ues-in-MS-Part-2-Sleep?pageZ1&orderbyZ 3&orderZasc

This article provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.