Sleep Smarter- Create a Night-Time Sleep Routine

Sleep smarter by creating a night-time sleep routine and making healthier lifestyle changes. Studies show that more than 50% of people living with Multiple Sclerosis have sleep issues including; trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, and being unable to fall back to sleep. Many people don’t get a restorative night’s rest and are exhausted all day; only to suffer from insomnia at night. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can affect the quality of life.

In, Sleep is the Best Medicine, we explored how sleep impacts the body and brain.  By making good decisions about our sleep habits we can influence MS symptoms such as pain and fatigue and also improve cognitive function, immune function, and long-term health.

Improve sleep patterns by making healthy lifestyle modifications

Sleep patterns can be affected by dietary choices. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that diets low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar were associated with lighter, less restorative sleep and more waking up at night.1,2 According to a study from Columbia University, refined carbs like bread and pasta can delay melatonin getting released into the body, disturbing the sleep cycle.3

For a night of better sleep, consider skipping caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that can increase alertness and make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that caffeine can impact falling asleep even up to 12 hours after consumption and nicotine has been linked to insomnia.On the other hand, alcohol is a sedative that can cause a rebound effect and wake you several hours after falling asleep.5

Foods to promote sleep

Look for choices that contain the essential amino acid tryptophan which helps to relax muscles. Your body changes tryptophan into serotonin and serotonin helps control sleep. When serotonin levels are low, people can experience insomnia and anxiety.6

Foods that contain tryptophan:

  • Bananas
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chicken Eggs
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Turkey
  • Cheese
  • Peanuts

Regulate circadian rhythm with melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles and circadian rhythm which is your body’s 24- hour internal clock. It is secreted when it gets dark, signaling the brain to go into sleep mode. Studies are ongoing to find out if melatonin supplements are safe for people with autoimmune diseases.

Foods rich in melatonin include:

  • Pineapples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Flaxseed
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Cherries.


  • Write a list of things to be done the next day so you can forget about them and relax.
  • Take 30-60 minutes at the end of the day to unwind and turn down the noise in your brain. Read, write in a journal, take a bath, meditate.
  • Turn off electronics within one hour of bedtime that emits blue light.
  • Don’t work until bedtime. It can produce anxiety and tight muscles can prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy food. All can affect the quality of your sleep.
  • Research shows the best average sleep temperature is 65-72.
  • Set up your bedroom to induce sleep. Hang blackout curtains. Pillows should be replaced between 6 months and 2 years. Mattresses should be replaced every 5-10 years.
  • Infuse lavender oil.  Lavender can increase your sleep quality by 20%. Other research shows that lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, inducing a feeling of calm.9
  • Stick to a sleep routine. Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital did one of the first studies to consider the effects of regular sleep patterns. Their research suggests that an inconsistent sleep routine prevents the body from releasing hormones at the right time to make you feel tired or awake, throwing off your circadian rhythm.10
  • Get a white-noise machine.
  • Exercise daily or just move. Research links inactivity with poor sleep.
  • Get outdoors and get natural sunlight every day to reset your circadian rhythm

Keep a sleep diary to pinpoint habits that interfere with sleep

 Consider the following questions:
  • How many hours of sleep do you average per night?
  • Do you wake up refreshed?
  • Can you identify habits that are interfering with sleep?
  • What steps can you take to modify or change those habits?
  • How many hours of sleep would you like to get per night?
  • How would your life change if you regularly met your sleep goal? Visualize it!

Sleep problems can also be caused by chemical and physical changes associated with Multiple Sclerosis. Nervous system lesions can impact the brain’s ability to communicate to the body that it’s time to sleep. Pain, anxiety, and certain medications can also play a part.11

Establishing a consistent sleep routine helps to maintain the body’s internal clock which enables you to get a better night’s rest.

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