Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult for the average person, but for those living with chronic illness the struggle can be much worse.

Pain and medications can cause sleepless nights, leading to fatigue during the day and poor quality of life.

Ear, nose, and throat surgeon Dr. Neil Smith sees plenty of patients who are having trouble sleeping. He says it's not always about the quantity of sleep, but the quality.

“Many chronic conditions will result in poor quality sleep and likewise poor quality sleep will exacerbate chronic conditions,” says Smith.

Dr. Smith says many quality of life studies show chronic conditions are harder to deal with if you aren't sleeping well. However, getting to the root of the problem can help a person better cope with their illness.

“We commonly see patients, for instance with fibromyalgia, that say I'm really struggling with my fibromyalgia. Then, when they get tested for sleep apnea and they find if they get a better quality of sleep, often their fibromyalgia can be tolerated better than it is,” says Smith.

Dr. Smith suggests a sleep study as the first step. They can be done at a hospital, or privately with a take-home device.

“These devices can tell us a lot about somebody's sleep,” says Smith. “The quality of the sleep they're getting, if they stop breathing, how often they stop breathing and whether there may be a more serious underlying problem.”

Kimberly Carter is the president and CEO of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. She says most people living with ALS struggle to get enough rest.

“Their quality of sleep becomes very difficult at some point in their disease. Almost everyone with ALS, at some point in time, will need some breathing assistance,” says Carter.

Carter says many of the society's clients will undergo a sleep study and be prescribed a sleeping device, a crucial piece of equipment.

“ALS, we know, is also associated with poor respiratory drive and there are certain types of CPAPs that help with that and ensure that a person with ALS that has this developing neurological problem can just, it ensures that they get the proper ventilation or breathing and that helps them with their quality of sleep and quality of life as well,” says Smith.

“They usually report quite a difference when they have gone through a sleep study and they now have the assistance of a BiPAP or cough assist machine,” says Carter.

While the effects of chronic disease on sleep varies, Dr. Smith says improving sleep can make a big difference across the board.

“If we sleep better, we tend to manage chronic diseases better.”

Dr. Smith recommends avoiding caffeine and strenuous activity before bedtime, as well as removing electronics and TVs from the bedroom, whether you are living with chronic illness or not.