The Connection Between Parkinson’s Disease and Sleep Disorders

It’s estimated that around three-quarters of people living with Parkinson’s disease also suffer from a sleep disorder. A good night’s sleep is essential for everyone, but even more so for people living with a chronic disease to help the body repair and restore itself.

MORE: The five stages of Parkinson’s disease.

According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, some of the most common sleep issues that come with Parkinson’s disease include difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, drowsiness during the day, talking or shouting while sleeping, vivid dreams, cramping, restless legs, difficulty turning over, snoring, tremors or rigidity when in bed, and waking to visit the bathroom.

Some of these problems can be alleviated with changes in lifestyle, like not drinking for a few hours before bed; avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine; not eating a heavy meal late at night; and not talking or thinking about stressful things before going to bed.  Some of these symptoms may be caused by medications, so it always advisable to discuss any sleeping problems with your doctor so that they can review patients’ treatment plan.

Eating well and getting fresh air and exercise during the day may help those with Parkinson’s sleep better at night. It’s also recommended that patients take time to properly wind down before bedtime — some find a warm bath, hot milky drink, reading or listening to calming music helps them drift off to sleep.

More serious sleeping disorders may also occur such as sleep apnea or REM sleep behavioral disorder. Around 40 percent of people living with Parkinson’s disease will experience sleep apnea when breathing becomes obstructed while asleep. The common symptoms of this are loud snoring, pauses in breathing, restless sleep, and feeling very tired during the day. Sleep apnea can be controlled using breathing equipment  — continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) — throughout the night.

REM sleep behavioral disorder is where the muscles don’t fully relax while dreaming, therefore the person is likely to act out their dreams. This can include hitting, kicking, grinding teeth, and shouting. Around half of those living with Parkinson’s experience this but in most cases it can be improved with medication.

MORE: How Parkinson’s disease affects your body.

Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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