The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person, but one that most patients battle is extreme fatigue. It can result from depression, from the multiple sclerosis itself (and its affect on your cardiac or neuromuscular systems, for example) and from the day-to-day strains of battling the disease.
Fortunately, there are ways MS patients can combat fatigue without a doctor’s intervention. One key strategy is to stop fatigue before it starts by making better lifestyle choices and eliminating poor habits that can drain your all-important energy reserves.
Here are three of the most common energy-zappers and how to short-circuit them.
Getting enough sleep is vital for MS patients. It boosts cognitive function and helps regulate the hormones that affect immune function. But MS symptoms, such as spasticity, frequent trips to the bathroom and periodic limb movements, can disturb sleep. The good news is that you can improve your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep by practicing better sleep hygiene.
• Try to go to bed and wake up about the same time everyday.
• Eliminate all sources of light from the bedroom.
• Don’t use the bed for anything other than sleep and sex.
• Limit caffeine to mornings only. (In addition to hindering sleep, caffeine can exacerbate the common MS symptom of frequent nighttime urination.)
• Don’t exercise less than four hours before bed.
• Avoid drinking fluids just before bedtime.
Bladder and bowel problems are common with multiple sclerosis and can interfere with sleep. Staying hydrated can reduce these symptoms. Drink six to eight (8-ounce cups) of liquid a day to soften stool and prevent constipation. This will also help prevent urine from becoming concentrated, which can irritate the bladder. Be sure to have most of your fluids with meals to limit nighttime trips to the bathroom.
When you’re tired, it’s tempting to reach for junk food for a quick boost. But that will only make you more fatigued by depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to function effectively. If cooking seems overwhelming, eat smaller meals and regular snacks. Don’t go more than four hours without eating. Stock up on healthy snacks (hard-cooked eggs, nuts and whole-grain crackers are good options). When you do cook, double recipes and freeze meals for the next time your energy is flagging.