What is the first thing we tend to give up when we have a busy life? For me, it’s sleep. What should be the last thing we give up when we need energy to live our busy life—especially when coupled with multiple sclerosis (MS)? Sleep! Sleep is underrated in our hyper-busy culture, but giving up sleep can have an impact on our health.
Living with MS can leave me exhausted. Finding the energy to accomplish my normal daily tasks can sometimes be challenging. Over time, I have come to realize that sleep is one of the best tools to help me get through the day.
This observation seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes what seems so obvious is much harder to put into practice. That is especially true for me. I work full time, I run 4-5 days a week, I have 2 kids still at home, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. There are many nights when I am up late trying to get just one more thing done, or I’m waking early so I can finish a task. But I can tell you I always pay for it later!
Over time, I have come to understand that if I want the energy to do the things I want to do, I must give my body the proper rest it craves. Sleep is as important as exercise and a healthy diet.
Setting the mood
For years, I liked to watch television before I went to sleep, often falling asleep only to be woken up by that same TV that now needed to be turned off! I now keep the TV for the family room. I turn the electronics off before I get into bed. Without the distractions, I get more restful, uninterrupted sleep, and it is easier to “turn my mind off.”
Limiting exercise and caffeine before bed
I like to run in the evening. It works with my schedule. The problem is if I run too close to bedtime, I often have a hard time getting to sleep. I now try to get my runs in as soon as I get home from work. I head out before dinner. Caffeine can give me the boost I need some days when my energy is low, but I limit my caffeine, beginning in the early afternoon. I have found drinking caffeine after 3 PM makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Dealing with disruption
For me, one of the most difficult things is getting back to sleep after my sleep is disrupted. I struggle with spasticity at night sometimes. Nothing like waking up to a nasty charley horse! I will get up do some stretching, and then long after the charley horse is gone, I find myself staring at the ceiling, trying not to wake up my husband. Sometimes for me the best thing to do is actually get up and take a warm shower to relax my body and mind. Counting sheep is my last resort!
Creating a routine
I am a creature of habit, and that does work in my favor when it comes to sleep. I go to bed most nights at the same time and wake every morning at the same time, even weekends. I tend to avoid late-night activities. No midnight movies for me! I do make careful decisions when it comes to activities and commitments based on my need for sleep.
Shooting for eight
Eight hours per night is the magic number for me. I find that when I follow my routine and avoid things like caffeine, exercising too late in the day, and electronics right before bed, I have a good shot at getting in the magic eight hours. Eight may not be your magic number. Some people may need more, some people may need less.
Having enough energy to make it through the day can often be a struggle, especially when living with MS. Getting enough sleep can make a huge difference between a great day and a not-so-great day!
Each individual's situation and needs will be different when it comes to sleep, diet, exercise or daily routine in general. Talk to your doctor and see what works best for you.