Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disturbance

Statiscally, Canada has the highest population of people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I would guess that most of know someone living with multiple sclerosis. If you don’t, MS is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin.

I can think of 4 people I know that are diagnosed with MS. One of my dearest friends J. was diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis several years ago. I see J. live a full and determined life and am inspired by her tenacity, and positive attitude. She is fairly open about sharing her story, and I admit I’m learning a lot from her.

J. was over for coffee last week. We were standing on my front porch chatting and she stated her balance was off that day and that “the porch felt like it was moving”, gesturing with her arms out like an airplane, showing the tilt effect she was experiencing.

While outside chatting, FedEx turned up with my latest sample from my weighted blanket manufacturer, and with a dance for joy, I took it in to inspect. Inside was a 5 pound weighted blanket . There was also a 7 pound weighted lap pad, which J immediately snatched and took for a test drive, placing it on her lap.

Weighted lap pads are great to use to help focus, calm the user, and provide a grounded feeling. Much like weighted blanket, they help reduce pain, anxiety and other symptom. (insert link to prior blog)

After our visit I was checking FaceBook and I noticed another friend with Multiple Sclerosis had commented on one of my posts saying how she was interested in weighted blanket. AND that very same day, I was chatting with a very close family friend who shared she was currently undergoing testing to determine if she too has Multiple Sclerosis.

They say everything happens in threes – so I took this as a sign to do some research.  

What was obvious early on – there is very little academic/scientific research on the effects of weighted blanket for Multiple Sclerosis patients, although I did manage to uncover some interesting facts about sleep and MS.

So, I looked for forums, blogs and other sources where patients with MS used weighted blanket/lap pads and shared their experiences.

The most common feedback was it helped with

  • grounding and balance
  • reduced symptom related to pain RLS, and
  • Improved their sleep.

Then I scoured their feedback and scientific research for safety concerns for MS patients in using weighted lap pads or weighted blanket. The general opinion is that they are safe to use amongst MS patients.

**If user is unable to support head, or roll over independently they should not use weighted blankets. If you are pregnant, you should not use weighted blankets.

Persons with circulatory and/or respiratory problems should not use. We recommend consulting your physician prior to using weighted blankets.I am not a physician, so I suggest that if you have Multiple Sclerosis, speak with your doctor before using a weighted blanket. **

I managed to find one study conducted in Canada that dealt with sleep disturbance in Canadian Multiple Sclerosis patients.

The report stated the sleep disturbance in Multiple Sclerosis patients is 4 times greater than the general population. In fact, 48-67% of patients with MS report poor sleep. MS patients with a mood disorder like anxiety are 2 times more likely to have sleep disturbance that MS those without mood disorders.

In fact, Multiple sclerosis is associated with sleep disorders including:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Narcolepsy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Nocturia

MS related Mental fatigue is also associated with poor sleep. Sleep disturbance affects mental health and overall well-being, yet is under recognized and inadequately addressed among MS patients.  

Studies have shown that for the general population, poor sleep has serious effects on individuals (click her for more info) including increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.  And for person with other health issues or diagnosis, there is increased risk of sleep issues. It’s a never ending cycle:

Poor sleep —> develop health problem—–> increases sleep disturbance——> more health problems.

All of which is compounded over and over again.

So, here is a quick summary of some feedback I discovered:

Some people with MS benefit from weighted blankets. These blankets can calm the symptoms of restless legs syndrome and help induce sleep for insomniacs

Eileen Parker made weighted blanket for years and in her book “The Weighted Blanket Guide” she reported that her customers with MS found relief and that weighted Vests can help with balance and the DPT from the vest provides user with spatial awareness – triggers the balance centre in brain.

Final Thoughts

Although there is little scientific research on the benefits of weighted blanket for people living with MS,  feedback is positive. I would love to run a private study to see what benefits weighted blankets can have for people living with MS. I also hope that with the increased popularity of weighted blanket in the general population that more scientific studies will happen for MS and other health conditions.  And if I gather enough private data, I would love to conduct an official study!

Do you have MS and tried weighted blanket? I’d love to know your experience and thoughts.

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