Sleeping difficulties

The Problem

People with MND may experience problems with sleep, which can result in fatigue during the day, loss of concentration and reduced quality of life.

Sleeping difficulties may be caused by a variety of reasons:
  • discomfort because of immobility
  • pain due to stiffness of joints or muscles
  • excessive saliva or dry mouth
  • breathing problems
  • emotional distress and anxiety.

Support you can give

Different sleep strategies work for different people. You could advise the following:
  • if possible, try not to remain in the same position in bed for too long
  • satin or silk sheets may help moving about in bed
  • it may be possible to get a profiling bed which can be adjusted to a variety of positions
  • side rails and extra pillows can give added support
  • a segmented overlay mattress and specialised pillows distribute body pressure more evenly
  • breathing may be helped by being slightly more upright by using extra pillows
  • before going to bed, avoid over-exertion, caffeinated drinks, smoking and heavy meals
  • establish a bedtime routine
  • make sure the bedroom is quiet, cool, dark and comfortable and light bedclothes allow easier movement in bed
  • people with swallowing difficulties may benefit from sleeping with their head elevated to prevent secretions from pooling in the upper airway

Be aware people with MND may have breathing problems that disturb their sleep. Any changes in sleeping patterns should be reported to the person’s healthcare team, who can refer them for respiratory assessment.