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ALS and Sleep

The Ice Bucket Challenge successfully raised awareness, but find out just how ALS impacts a person’s sleep (photo credit:BigStockPhoto.com)

If you have spent any time on Facebook in recent weeks it is likely you have heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but odds are that unless you have had a family member or friend with ALS, you know very little about the disease. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease is a debilitating neurological disease that essentially strips the connections between brain and body.   As the disease progresses this causes severe and significant symptoms that result in weakness and fatigue.  One of the best ways to manage some of these effects, if not the symptoms themselves, is with sufficient high quality sleep.  Unfortunately, many people with ALS struggle to get the sleep they need let alone sleep that is high in quality.


What Makes Sleep So Hard with ALS?

One of the best ways to describe the primary sleep challenge with ALS is explain that a normal person turns over about 30 times while they are sleeping.  This is just as true for those with ALS.  However, simple motor functions like turning over in bed require so much more energy for those with the disease that it is more like turning over and doing 10 pushups and 10 situps before going back to sleep.  Now imagine that you had to do that 30 times a night.  It quickly becomes very obvious why it can be so challenging for someone with ALS to get the sleep they need to combat the ever-present fatigue that is so prevalent.

Another reason those with ALS can struggle so much with sleep is because the disease can cause pain and cramping in the muscles.  This, along with involuntary movement in the hands, feet, and limbs, can make sleep even more challenging.    Another complication of the disease, respiratory weakness, can impact the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

When you take all of this together, it is amazing that people with ALS are able to get any sleep at all at a time when getting a good night sleep is one of the most important things they need.  This is why people with the disease turn to sleep aids, both over the counter and prescription, to help them increase the amount of sleep they get each night.   Unfortunately, these kinds of medication can create their own problems as they weaken respiratory responses which can already be weakened in ALS patients.  Many people with the disease cannot use sleep aid medication for fear of causing respiratory distress.

One of the ways that sleep centers can help support sleep in those with ALS is by providing a sleep environment with ventilation support to help combat the effects of respiratory weakness in patients.

For more information on ALS visit the ALS Association (ALSA) website.

To see Lauri Leadley take the Ice Bucket Challenge and explain how Valley Sleep Center can help those with ALS, click here.

To donate to the ALS Association and learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit the ALSA’s Ice Bucket Challenge page.


Client Reviews

"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"

Anthea S.

Tempe, AZ

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."

Candace M.

Scottsdale, AZ

"Great staff, they make you feel so at home. Every medical facility should be this nice. Felt like a nice hotel. Someone has great taste in decorating. Thanks for making us feel at home."

Steve N.

San Diego, CA