Not too long ago, snoring used to be considered an annoyance. It was not annoying to the snoring person. It was a pain for those who were unlucky enough to be subjected to the sawing of wood. The only answer was to sleep away from the offender. Snoring was a problem with no real solutions. As one would expect, the market jumped in and sold numerous products, which claimed to help end snoring. 

These items used techniques such as widening the nasal passage or propping open the jaw and mouth. Getting a better night’s sleep became the focus. Medical science knew better. Clinical research had shown over and over that snoring is a health issue that needed to be taken more seriously. 

Sleep has restorative properties for both body and mind. It is an essential function of life. Anything that interferes with sleep is a cause for concern. This is especially true for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) who often have problems related to sleep. Lassitude and fatigue are inextricably linked to the inability to get a good night’s rest. When an MS patient complains of being tired and sleepy during the day, it is a good idea to investigate it further. It is possible that this person is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Continue Reading

OSA happens when muscles located at the back of the throat relax. As a person breathes in, the airway closes and narrows. This in turn lowers blood-oxygen levels causing the brain to wake up the sleeper. This can happen up to 30 times per hour and is characterized by snorting, choking, or gasping for air. It is often behind the profound fatigue felt by those living with MS, according to the Mayo Clinic. OSA can affect how someone functions during the day. 

Read more about therapies for multiple sclerosis

My MS was discovered by accident as the result of a nosebleed. As a result, I had to become a healthcare sleuth when it came to symptoms. I did not have an obvious clinical history associated with MS. However, when I look back, I can clearly see the signs. At one time in my life, I was afraid to go to sleep. I recall sitting up in my bed on the verge of hysterical crying because I feared lying down and sleeping. I would later discover that I had a severe case of OSA. I did not know it at the time, but it was this pattern of not breathing over and over during the night that caused me fear and panic. 

An astute physician took my issues of fatigue and poor sleep earnestly and set up an overnight sleep study for me. The polysomnography involved lots of attached wires and being hooked up to monitoring equipment. The results indicated that OSA was my sleep nemesis. My story is somewhat typical for persons with MS. 

When an MS patient complains of excessive fatigue and tiredness, healthcare providers must take the extra step of asking more about sleep. Finding out if this is a chronic issue will help to isolate the problem. Snoring or waking up several times a night gasping for breath or snorting is an indicator that more serious issues are at play. OSA is harmful on several levels, and for the person living with MS, it is a potent enemy of restful and curative sleep.