MS and fatigue linked with sleep apnea

sleep apnea

At the end of last month, this blog focused on the problem of restless legs syndrome, including the knock-on effects of disturbed sleep and increased fatigue for those living with multiple sclerosis. Of course, sleep problems and fatigue are often parts of life that those of us with MS have to deal with on an ongoing basis

Now a study1 by Pennsylvania State University says that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is prevalent in people with MS and goes on to suggest that it may be a contributor to the fatigue that is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of the disease.

The study found that one-fifth of the MS patients surveyed had OSA and discovered, through screenings, that more than half were at an increased risk of it.

Dr. Tiffany Braley

Dr Tiffany J Braley (pictured, left), assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Centers, was the study’s lead author and principal investigator. She said: “OSA may be a highly prevalent and yet under-recognized contributor to fatigue in persons with MS. Our study suggests that clinicians should have a low threshold to evaluate MS patients for underlying sleep disturbances.”

Fatigue is a common symptom of MS and many of us tend to ignore sleep problems. However, we need to get ourselves checked as, if we have OSA, it can often be easily and effectively treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Anyone who has been diagnosed with MS should really consider discussing the possibility of OSA with their doctor. And that includes people who suffer from fatigue but usually don’t snore at night. Why? Well, although snoring is thought to be the most identifying symptom of OSA, experts say that is not always the case.

Dr. Murray Grossan, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Los Angeles, explains: “Patients with MS, as well as those without the disease, may have OSA without snoring. That’s why it’s important to discuss the possibility of having OSA with your doctor whenever you begin experiencing fatigue.”

If a doctor suspects a patient has OSA, he or she may be given the opportunity to take part in a sleep study to monitor breathing, oxygen levels and other functions that help diagnose OSA and check the severity of the disorder.


1Sleep apnea may contribute to fatigue in multiple sclerosis: Study

If you need further information about sleep apnea, click this link:



3 thoughts on “MS and fatigue linked with sleep apnea

  1. I’ve heard of this, I’ve woken & not been able to breath, it’s frightening. I get fatigue too but never thought of linking the two. Like all symptoms they come & go & I soon forget, never thought about getting tested. Is treatment an alarm that wakes you up I wonder..


    • Hi Scott,

      Treatment is a CPAP (a mask) that you use at night. Some people say they get very stuffed up with it and the advice I have seen is to use a breathing strip under the CPAP.


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