Stay Alert to Sleep Problems in Multiple Sclerosis

September 9, 2014

A significant percentage of patients with MS in the sample screened positive for 1 or more sleep disorders. Most were undiagnosed.

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) frequently report sleep disorders, but accurate prevalence figures are limited. This study sought to report at a population level the prevalences of restless legs syndrome and insomnia in patients with MS and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

A cross-sectional study was performed using a written survey that was mailed to 11,400 patients from the Northern California Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society database who self-identified as having MS. The survey included individual questions relating to demographics as well as several standard validated questionnaires related to primary sleep disorders.

Patients returned 24.6% of the surveys. Among the completed surveys, 898 (37.8%) screened positive for obstructive sleep apnea, 746 (31.6%) for moderate to severe insomnia, and 866 (36.8%) for restless legs syndrome. In contrast, only 4%, 11%, and 12% of the cohort reported receiving diagnoses of obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome, respectively, from a health care provider.

Despite the limitations of this study, including a low response rate to surveys and potential selection bias, a significant percentage of patients with MS in the sample screened positive for 1 or more sleep disorders. The vast majority of these sleep disorders were undiagnosed.

This study indicates a high prevalence of sleep disorders in patients with MS. Greater attention from caregivers to sleep problems in this population is warranted.

References:

1. Brass SD, Li CS, Auerbach S. The underdiagnosis of sleep disorders in patients with multiple sclerosis. J Clin Sleep Med. 2014;10. pii: jc-00207-12.