For the 350,000 to 500,000 individuals in the United States who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), fatigue is a common occurrence – and according to one recent study, undiagnosed sleep disorders may be at the root of this debilitating symptom.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that 80% of individuals who have MS also experience fatigue. The fatigue can become so severe that it interferes with their ability to function, often causing them to withdraw from the workforce.
To explore the connection between MS fatigue and sleep disorders, researchers at the UC Davis Sleep Medicine Laboratory examined 2,300+ multiple sclerosis patients in Northern California and found that more than 70% of them suffered from undiagnosed sleep disorders. For example, of the 38% who screened positive for obstructive sleep apnea, only 4% had received a proper diagnosis from a physician.
“This study shows that sleep disorder frequency, sleep patterns and complaints of excessive daytime sleepiness suggest that sleep problems may be a hidden epidemic in the MS population, separate from MS fatigue,” said study author Steven Brass, associate clinical professor and director of the Neurology Sleep Clinical Program and co-medical director of the UC Davis Sleep Medicine Laboratory.
Unfortunately, MS patients aren’t the only ones suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 80% of individuals who have sleep apnea are undiagnosed. This is a scary number, as untreated sleep apnea has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, depression and even higher rates of automobile accidents.
The good news is that sleep apnea, once it’s diagnosed, is relatively easy to treat. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy is one of the most common methods of treatment for this disorder and can be highly successful when used as directed. This includes keeping the CPAP mask, hose and reservoir free of bacteria, mold and viruses.