Sleep Disorders

Sleep disturbances are a common non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD) that may cause difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Sleep with Parkinson'sSleep disturbances associated with Parkinson’s include:

  • Bed mobility changes
  • Rapid Eye Movement Behaviour Disorder (RBD)
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Sleep fragmentation (broken sleep)

Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 80,000 Australians and while the causes of the condition remain largely unknown, Professor Simon Lewis, from the Brain & Mind Research Institute says people don’t realise that the disease can have many different early manifestations.

“Interestingly, although best known for its physical symptoms like slowness and tremor, Parkinson’s disease is often preceded by a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms like mood change, loss of smell, constipation and sleep disorders.

“Possibly the most dramatic of its symptoms, however is known as Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behaviour Disorder. Parkinson patients have been known to start acting out in their dreams, often punching or kicking the person sharing their bed.

“For some Parkinson patients it comes as a revelation and relief, not to mention their spouses, that the condition may be responsible for things that go ‘bump’ or’kick’ in the night,” says Dr Lewis.

Watch the video from our partners at The Michael J. Fox Foundation to learn more about each of these factors and how they can be managed, and to hear tips for enhancing sleep in Parkinson’s.

Some tips that might help you get a better sleep

As you work with your doctor to pinpoint and treat the cause of your sleep problem, practising good sleep hygiene may help you get a better night’s sleep.

Keep a sleep diary or use technology to track your sleep. Important notes to record include the time you go to bed and get up, how many times you awaken during the night and why, and how many hours you sleep. Keep track of the caffeinated beverages you drink (both how many and at what time of day), if you nap and your exercise routine. These notes will help you to have a productive conversation with your doctor about your sleep.

Limit daytime naps. Sleeping too much during the day, especially late in the day, will likely prevent you from sleeping well at night.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and exercise later in the day. Caffeine consumed in the afternoon can keep you awake at night. Although alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep more easily, it may interrupt your sleep later in the night. Working out regularly earlier in the day can improve sleep overall but exercising too close to bedtime might make it harder to fall asleep.

Don’t drink too much fluid before bed. This is especially important if you experience frequent nighttime urination.

Use the bedroom only for sleep and intimacy. Don’t watch television, read, use your telephone or do anything other than sleep in bed. When you use your bed only for sleep, your body and mind will automatically know what’s supposed to happen when you get into bed.

Create a bedtime routine. An hour before bed, start to prepare for sleep. Turn off the television, computer and other electronics that emit stimulating light. Take a warm bath, drink a cup of decaffeinated tea or read something for fun. Get your body and mind in the habit of winding down and preparing for sleep.

Keep a regular schedule. Go to sleep and get up at around the same time every day, even on the weekends.

Find out more about the foundation and the research underway to help speed better treatments and ultimately a cure for Parkinson’s.