Dad’s Night Terrors Prompt Curiosity About Sleep Disturbances

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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“Mary Beth, you should write a piece about night terrors.” My dad’s text lit up my phone one morning.

“Why do you feel that way? Is that something you’re struggling with?” I responded.

My dad went on to explain that he’d had a few incidents where he woke up in the middle of the night, having nearly hit my mom. In one dream, he was boxing his brother, and he woke to find himself boxing the air. No one was harmed during this particular incident, but hearing this made me concerned about the possibility of someone getting injured.

It didn’t take my dad long to bring this symptom to his doctor’s attention. She told him that a low dose of melatonin might help, but so far, my dad isn’t sure if it is.

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Curious about the prevalence of this Parkinson’s symptom, I began looking into reported sleep incidents. It seems that my dad isn’t the only person with Parkinson’s disease (PD) who struggles with night terrors. In fact, an article published in the journal Parkinson’s Disease in 2012 noted that, “Sleep disturbances, which include sleep fragmentation, daytime somnolence, sleep-disordered breathing, restless legs syndrome (RLS), nightmares, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD), are estimated to occur in 60% to 98% of patients with PD.”

Most people imagine tremors or stiffness when they picture Parkinson’s disease, but many other symptoms are common as well. Based on the article mentioned above, it seems like the majority of people with Parkinson’s struggle with some type of sleep disturbance.

My dad has always struggled to sleep soundly. For most of his life, he thought it was just how he functioned. But as we learn more about Parkinson’s, we wonder if this symptom was an early indication of my dad’s condition.

Some people have mentioned jerky movements while falling asleep or waking up on the Parkinson’s News Today Forums. My parents are currently worried about my dad acting out dreams, because it could put my mom at risk.

I know that some people with Parkinson’s choose to sleep in separate bedrooms when navigating night terrors because it eliminates the risk of accidentally pummeling their partner. My parents don’t yet feel that they must do this, but I wonder if this particular symptom will worsen. The disruption seems like it’d be startling to both of them. It remains to be seen whether medication or lifestyle changes will help my parents safely navigate this dilemma.

Have you struggled with night terrors or other sleep disturbances? Please share your experience in the comments below.


Note: 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


sharon lorraine booth avatar

sharon lorraine booth

iI wonder why it is that a Parkinsons patient doesnt shake whilst asleep, what part of the brain prevents this

Sharon Kay Vander Zyl avatar

Sharon Kay Vander Zyl

My husband is stage 1 to 2 and often has night terrors. He has "flown" out of bed and hit his head, and another night he knocked over a lamp. He often yells in his sleep and he is usually fighting with something or someone. He is often trying to protect me. He has struck and kicked me. Like your parents we are reluctant to get twin beds or to sleep in separate rooms but it may come to that for us. He takes Melatonin 10 mg. and one capsule of Glysine at bedtime. So far, little benefit. That and his sweating/chills are his most prominent symptoms right now.

Lisa avatar


My father had vivid dreams that scared him. I'd like for more research done on waking dreams and dementia in PD patients or those with lewy body disease.

Michelle D Lane avatar

Michelle D Lane

I experience night terrors so frequently that my husband and myself sleep in separate bedrooms for the last two years. I yell and curse at people in my sleep. Sometimes, I wake myself up during the episodes but most of the time I have no recollection of the episodes. It is quite disturbing on my part and my husbands part as well.

Diane Skylis avatar

Diane Skylis

HI Mary Beth. Since the most concerning punch from Dad's sleep-boxing, we moved another (single) bed into the bedroom. Gladly, I have not needed to use it. I want to sleep in his room, because when he does have these bad dreams, I wake him. If he cries out or is moaning, I have woken him, rather than idly listen to him suffer. (He wants me to wake him. ) These dreams are pretty regular. I am not sure if the disease causes this or if the medication causes it. Unfortunately, the dreams persist. I just read about keeping a Parkinson's diary and the stages of Parkinson's in this article. I believe we are in stage 3, but I also know, it is time to begin the diary. I will keep you posted.


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