Sleep disorders and fatigue in multiple sclerosis: evidence for association and interaction

J Neurol Sci. 2011 Mar 15;302(1-2):7-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2010.12.008. Epub 2011 Jan 16.


Fatigue is highly prevalent in multiple sclerosis (MS). It appears to be multifactorial, with "primary" or disease-related factors involved, as well as "secondary" factors, including comorbidities. Sleep disturbances are frequent in MS as well, and often result from disease-related factors. Subjective sleep disturbances in MS have been extensively studied and have been associated with fatigue. Sleep disorders in the general population have been associated with fatigue as well. However, data on objectively diagnosed sleep disorders in MS are less conclusive. Studies of sleep in MS have often suffered from low numbers of study subjects and suboptimal methodology. We review the current knowledge on sleep disturbances in MS and the relationship to fatigue. Data from neuroimaging studies and studies of molecular consequences of sleep disorders in the general population, with particular attention to sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), are briefly reviewed. Potential biologic interactions with MS are discussed in this context. We conclude that further studies of sleep disorders in MS are needed, to objectively establish their significance in this disease, and also to document any impact of treatment of sleep disorders on biologic and clinical outcomes such as fatigue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology