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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Tired of being tired?

Sleep disturbance is a real struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. This can be related to the non-motor symptoms of PD (poor sleep, fragmented sleep, depression) and can also be related to medication for the treatment of PD. Your body and brain need sleep to recover and re-energize for the day ahead.

Why is sleep affected in PD? Lewy bodies can be found in the sleep centers of the brain and is thought to be a reason for some of the sleep issues with PD.

There are many different types of sleep disorders associated with PD (this is a list of the most common

  • REM behavior sleep disorders: A person acts out their dreams and this can be part of pre-motor PD symptoms

  • Insomnia

  • Primary (difficulty falling asleep at the start of the night) and Secondary (difficulty falling asleep once waking up in the middle of the night)

  • Sleep fragmentation: brief arousal occurring during sleep, this may only be seen with a sleep study

  • Restless leg syndrome: an uncomfortable sensation in legs (sometimes in the arms) which is relieved with movement. It can feel like crawling, electrical, itching or aching sensation. It typically occurs in the evening or night.

  • Sleep Apnea: breathing stops and starts through the night

Here are some ideas to improve your sleep health:

  • Exercise daily!!!! Performing aerobic exercise can help with overall sleep quality. Try to avoid strenuous exercise right before bed.

  • Practice meditation. This can be helpful if you feel anxious about sleep. You can use this practice to help relax before bedtime or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

  • Limit daytime napping to 30 minutes. Research has shown that optimal napping is between 20-30 minutes and can improve mood. Also try to nap before 3 pm so your body is able to fall asleep at bedtime.

  • Your bed should be for sleeping and sex. Reading in bed, either on a device or a book, or watching television can change how your brain thinks of your bed. If you use your bed for these 2 activities then your brain is better able to go into rest mode come bedtime.

  • Make sure you are getting enough natural light during the day, especially earlier in the day. Light therapy may be helpful for those who are not able to get outdoors during the day. This can help maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and heavy meals near your bedtime. These can both make it difficult to fall asleep as they are stimulants.

  • Set bedtime and wake time along with a relaxing bedtime routine. This could include gentle stretching, meditation/mindfulness. A goal is to be in bed for 7-8 hours. Having a routine can be really helpful in achieving healthy sleep habits.

  • Use satin sheets and/or pajamas to make it easier to get in and out of bed along with getting repositioned for comfort.

  • Minimize liquid intake within 2-3 hours prior to bedtime as this can be a contributor to frequent bathroom trips at night. If frequent urination is something stopping you from sleep, speak to your doctor. There are several reasons why this happens with PD and several medications that may be able to help.

  • Set up your room for sleep success. The temperature should be between 60-67 degrees F. Screens should be adjusted to limit blue light. On smart devices there are filters that can be adjusted to limit the amount of blue light, which is the type of light that tells your brain to be wide awake. Try blackout shades or eye shades to make your room darker. Try a noise machine, fan, or humidifier to help block out background noise.

  • Try a mindfulness app. Calm and headspace are two apps available on android and apple devices with programs to help you get ready for sleep

  • Avoid conversations that are stressful prior to bed. It is harder for your brain to go into relaxation mode if it is angry, sad, or frustrated.

  • Avoid clock watching. If you wake up and are having difficulty falling back asleep, get out of bed and read. Watching the clock can increase your anxiety about not sleeping leading to even more difficulty sleeping.

We wish you a restful night's sleep!

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