senior man with pain mnd with doctor

Motor neuron disease or MND is the condition of the progressive degeneration of nerve cells, called neurons, which control the muscles in the body. These cells and muscles enable us to walk, sit, stand, or move, and even, speak or breathe.

To understand how they work, let’s know the two kinds of motor neurons. The upper motor neurons (UMN) are responsible for receiving messages from the brain through the spinal cord, while the lower motor neurons (LMN) receive messages from the spinal cord to the muscles.

Loss of control r degeneration of these nerve cells can affect the mobility of the person due to muscle loss.

There are 1,200 cases in Australia, but it seemed the condition is affecting 400 Aussies every year. MND is more commonly found in seniors aging 50 to 60 years old.

What are the causes of MND?

MND happens for a lot of reasons including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that contribute to the susceptibility of neurons.


According to Health Directive Australia, about 1 to 10 cases are hereditary due to genetic mutation. Parents who experienced MND will have their children a 50-50 chance of inheriting the condition.


The lack of proper diet, exercise, or sleep may attribute to the condition. The toxins or lack of proper nutrients may damage motor neurons in the brain, thus, cutting off signals of mobility. Drugs, alcohol, or nicotine might aggravate the problem.

Severe injuries

Severe and repeated head injuries result in motor neuron disease. Especially athletes who do rigorous sports play and receive several concussions are at risk for MND, according to the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

High toxins in the brain

A high buildup of toxins in the brain called tau may lead to MND. Causes of high tau can be from injuries sustained, the use of illegal drugs and substances, and being in toxic environments.

How it disrupts sleep

MND and sleep loss have a reciprocal relationship which adds to the burden of both conditions. MND patients often reported low sleep quality because of body pains, muscle cramps, insomnia, low mobility, and depression. Meanwhile, the condition will also worsen because restorative sleep is not achieved. Some problems include:

  1. Breathing problems
  2. Dry mouth or excessive drooling
  3. Stiffness of joints
  4. Anxiety and depression
  5. Pain and discomfort

There are different therapeutic measures available for patients with MND to achieve sleep quality. Respiratory assessments are also useful to curb fatigue and improve sleep.

Symptoms of MND

Contrary to popular belief, people with MND do not lose their sense of smell, taste, or touch – that’s the responsibility of sensory nerves. Early symptoms of MND often consist of muscle weakness, stumbling, slurring, cramps, or difficulty in swallowing.

  1. Tingling of hands and feet
  2. Difficulty in walking
  3. Difficulty in holding objects
  4. Slurring of speech
  5. Difficulty in swallowing

People with MND also reported experiencing some changes in behavior, cognition, and language. Scientists found that it can affect frontal and temporal lobes. However, most patients experience mild symptoms of these changes. The symptoms vary from person to person in terms of progression, symptoms, and diagnosis.

physical therapist for pain mnd

Treatment and sleep tips for MND

There is no cure for MND, although there are various treatments to minimize its symptoms. Physical therapy or medications are taken to curb involuntary restlessness, twitching, or tingling of muscles. In New Zealand, Riluzole of Rilutek can be prescribed to mitigate the effects of MND to patients.

Patients with MND can call for help with their neurologist, physiotherapists, dietitians, sleep technologists, or family doctor.

Physical therapy

Invest in programs or health services and rehabilitation support for on-going care. This includes physical therapy, psychologist, dietitian, or physiatrist for muscle weakness.

The support usually emphasizes on strengthening muscle functions, coordination, and motor skills, or reintegration day-to-day tasks. Oftentimes, you’ll use equipment to help you resume your everyday life such as wheelchairs, electronic aids, stimulation devices, and gait training.

Get an adjustable bed

About 1,200 Australians suffer from motor neuron disease every year which causes muscle weakness. However, with adjustable beds, you decrease the stress on your body by distributing weight evenly on the mattress.

Try elevating your feet to reduce to lower back strain. This allows your spine to relax accordingly. What’s more, if you use a foam mattress, it boosts natural body contouring to pressure points.

Dietary changes

Patients with muscle weakness report of feeling better if they follow a certain diet. For instance, eating a lot of vegetables and healthy lean meat intake reduces muscle tiredness. Cutting sugars and drinking lots of water also prevent symptoms from getting worse.

What’s more, this dietary lifestyle allows you to intake proteins necessary for muscle growth, recovery, and recharge.

Meditation and routines

Anxiety and depression can often lead to restless nights. It’ll also cause your brain to mess up the signals on your pain receptors. Try relaxation therapies or meditation to ease the mind and body of stress. You can try deep breathing exercises or listen to peaceful music.

People who suffer from stress and anxiety will find it beneficial to instill relaxing activities at night. You can wind down and take a warm bath, read a book, or write a journal to take off heavy feelings. Try meditating for at least five minutes. It can help boost your mind and sleep quality.

Sleep well

Sleeping can be difficult due to the pain the condition brings. To have that restful night you can try doing the following:

As we grow older, our sleep patterns begin to differ. We either fall asleep more, less, at night or day. Our lifestyle choices and current health conditions interfere with our shut eyes. So, how to sleep better as we age?

Stick to a routine

Train your body to sleep and wake up at regular time intervals. Your body will get used to this routine and make use of work and downtime to your advantage. If you want to catch up with sleep debts, take a daytime nap at a maximum of 20 minutes.

Practice healthy bed habits

Instead of scrolling on your newsfeeds, take a warm bath, read a book, meditate, and drink something warm to induce you to sleep. Keep your gadgets away when you sleep. It can stimulate your brain for more action.

Review your medications

If you think your medications are causing you to stay awake, talk to your doctor for some alternatives, and if he or she can substitute your pills for something better.

Watch what you eat and drink

Eating too close, especially spicy ones, before you sleep can induce stomach aches and acid reflux. Drinking caffeine or liquor may also keep you awake at night. At least chug your coffee or beer four hours before bedtime. Too much eating can make you gain weight which will further complicate your sleep problems.

Improve sleeping quarters

Keep your bedroom clean and clutter-free to tone down your anxiety. Clean your bed to rid of allergens, dust mites, and bed bugs latching on the covers. It’s important to aim for your recommended sleep at night to stay healthy. If your sleep disturbances persist, it’s best to seek help from a doctor.

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