Parkinson’s disease has been linked to sleep disorders and sleep disturbances. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the loss of brain cells that control movement. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include tremors, stiffness, slowness of movements, as well as balance and coordination problems. Memory problems, depression, and sleep problems can all occur in Parkinson’s disease, too.
Sleep problems and sleep disorders may occur as an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, even before motor symptoms have started. Common sleep disorders experienced in Parkinson’s disease include insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, nightmares, sleep attacks, REM sleep behavior disorder (acting out dreams), periodic leg movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and nocturia, which is frequent nighttime urination.
Sleep disorders in Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder in which the person stops breathing for brief moments throughout the night. This can cause the individual to awaken abruptly in order to resume breathing. Sleep apnea sufferers often wake up tired, may experience headaches and jaw pain, and may have other health problems, like hypertension and diabetes.
Some studies have shown that up to 20 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients suffer from sleep apnea, compared to five percent of the general population. The good news is, sleep apnea can easily be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.
Parkinson’s insomnia: Insomnia in Parkinson’s disease occurs in up to 30 percent of patients. Insomnia can be a sign of anxiety and may also be linked to depression – the two other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that may explain its high occurrence. Medication for Parkinson’s disease may contribute to insomnia as well, and thus some adjustment of insomnia treatment may be required.
Therapy may help resolve insomnia issues, and practicing good sleep hygiene – only using the bed for sleeping, for example – may help improve the condition.
REM behavioral disorder: The REM sleep phase is when our dreams form and occur. REM behavioral disorder is when a person acts out their dreams. Generally, this is harmless, but it can increase the risk of injury and danger for the sleeper, especially if motor function is impaired.
There are many reasons as to why REM behavioral disorder occurs in Parkinson’s disease patients, including lack of sleep, medications, age, and even Parkinson’s disease-related vision changes.
Treating other sleep disturbances and using medication can help improve outcomes of REM behavioral disorder.
Night-time urinary frequency (nocturia): Parkinson’s disease patients often experience autonomic dysfunction, which contributes to nocturia. Nocturia is categorized as urgency, hesitancy and increased frequency of urination. Discovering underlying causes of nocturia such as infections or prostate problems allows for appropriate targeted treatment, which improves outcomes. A full urologic examination may be required to rule out all possible causes for nocturia in order to find the best treatment available.
Sleep problems and disorders can worsen symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease. Thus, it’s important to treat them to avoid any further complications. Many sleep disorders can be easily treated, whether it is by changing medication dosages involved in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease or by uncovering and targeting an underlying cause.
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