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Managing Sleep with Parkinson's Disease


Written by Dr. Michael Braitsch via Februrary 2024 Newsletter

Just like a good diet and regular exercise, having a good night of sleep is just as vital. However, most  people with PD have trouble getting a good night of sleep due to disease symptoms and/or  anti-Parkinson’s medication (1). Affecting more than 75% of people with PD, sleep disorders are one of  the most disabling non-motor symptom of PD (2). Some common sleep issues for people with PD are  insomnia, daytime sleepiness, inverted sleep cycle, sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD),  and restless legs syndrome (RLS).  


Not only is it important to sleep the right number of hours, but it is also important to achieve deep sleep.  There are four stages of sleep and stage three, also known as slow wave sleep, is considered to be the  deepest and most restorative stage of sleep (2). A study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s disease (3) in 2021 revealed that increased slow wave sleep is associated with better cognitive performance in  PD. Participants with high amounts of slow wave sleep showed better performance in executive  function, language, and processing speed. 




This study supports the idea that a night of good and deep sleep can affect more than just physical  health, but also positively impact mental and cognitive health. 


How might one achieve deeper sleep? The Parkinson’s Foundation and the Michael J. Fox  Organization (4) have gather some general tips on what may help people with PD get a better night of  rest. As always, if you experience any of the above sleep issues, consult with your healthcare provider  to determine the best treatment options. 


Daytime Tips for Better Sleep 

  • Start or increase daily exercise: regular exercise helps  deepen sleep, but avoid heavy exercise two hours before  bed 

  • Wake up at the same time every day 

  • Get out of bed right after you wake up: too much time in  bed can lead to more waking at night 

  • Limit daytime napping to 40 minutes: tested by NASA!  Too many or too-long naps can make sleep at night more  difficult 

  • No smoking: cigarette smoking stimulates the body and makes sleep difficult. 

  • Do not drink coffee, tea, sodas, or cocoa past noon: the  caffeine can interfere with normal sleep.


Nighttime Tips for Better Sleep 

  • Develop a sleep ritual: do something relaxing before  bed to tell your body it is time to settle down

  • End screen time at least ONE HOUR before bed

  • Do NOT use over-the-counter medication: may help  you sleep faster, but do not help you get deeper sleep

  • Only a small snack if hungry at bedtime: large  meals before bedtime can worse sleep, avoid sugary  snacks, chocolate, tea, and coffee. 

  • Keep lights level low: use a bathroom or nightlight to  prevent falls 

  • Use satin sheets or wear silk pajamas: if movement  problems keep you up at night, some find this  improves movement in bed


References

1. Sleep problems in Parkinson’s. (n.d.). Parkinson’s Foundation. Retrieved January 29, 2024, https://www.parkinson.org/library/fact-sheets/sleep 

2. Sleep and Parkinson’s: Non-motor quality of life. (n.d.). Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/blog/science-news/sleep 

3. Wood, K. H., Memon, A. A., Memon, R. A., Joop, A., Pilkington, J., Catiul, C., Gerstenecker, A., Triebel, K., Cutter, G., Bamman, M. M., Miocinovic, S., &  

Amara, A. W. (2021). Slow wave sleep and EEG delta spectral power are associated with cognitive function in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of  Parkinson’s Disease, 11(2), 703–714. https://doi.org/10.3233/jpd-202215 

4. Fatigue & sleep. (n.d.). The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research | Parkinson’s Disease. https://www.michaeljfox.org/news/fatigue-sleep



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