Parkinsons disease (PD) is a condition in which the brain loses cells that are responsible for controlling movements. Parkinsons disease patients can therefore hardly control voluntary muscles. Muscle atonia (muscle paralysis) which important for sleep is poor resulting in sleep complaints. Parkinsons disease is chronic and progressive – gets worse with age. It is characteristically accompanied by poor memory.
Parkinsons Disease and Sleep: Negative Effects
In general, Parkinsons disease is dehumanizing in that a person who has always been independent now has to depend on other people for support. Having to depend on other people can make you feel depressed and lead to self-esteem. Depression in turn leads to shallow sleep and insomnia. Poor sleep, on the other hand, exaggerates all symptoms of Parkinsons disease.
Poor Muscle Control
Parkinsons disease is characterized by poor muscle control which results in:
- Muscle tremors.
- Muscle stiffness.
- Slow movement.
- Poor balance and control
The above symptoms are of course clearer during the day. However, these signs go on and are even worse during sleep. Muscle tremors can easily wake you up. Poor muscle atonia means that you only experience the shallow N- REM sleep. The deeper REM stage of sleep is short in Parkinsons disease.
Parkinsons Disease and Sleep Disorders
REM sleep disorder behavior is a condition in which you literally act whatever it is you are dreaming. Studies show that 75% of people with REM sleep disorder behavior went on to have Parkinsons disease (or another disease similar to it).
The main symptom of Parkinsons disease is a loss of muscle control. However, the easiest signs of PD are related to various sleep issues. The early symptoms include:
- Nightmares and night terrors.
- Extreme daytime sleepiness.
- Sudden sleep attacks.
- Increase in frequency of waking up to urinate.
- Periodic Leg Movement Disorder.
Parkinsons Disease and Sleep Difficulty Causes
Parkinsons disease is primarily idiopathic (has no known cause). It is thought to be triggered by environmental factors especially in people who are already exposed genetically. About 15% to 25% of PD patients have a relative with the condition.
Secondary causes of PD are due to exposure to narcotic drugs. Repeated trauma in the head as in boxing can trigger cell loss. Other risk factors for PD include:
- Low levels of Folate.
- Exposure to toxins such as herbicides and pesticides.
- Male are at a higher risk than women.
- Age- the first symptoms are seen in the middle ages but become more pronounced with age.
Parkinsons Disease: Symptoms
Apart from movement-related symptoms. PD patients also experience:
- Difficulty is eating and talking.
- Loss of memory.
It should be noted that not all patients experience all the above symptoms. Most of the symptoms tend to get worse with time.
At the moment, there is no cure for PD. Treatment is meant to control the symptoms as well as sleeping disorders. Coping tips for Parkinsons disease include:
- Reduce water and beverage intake in hours leading to sleep so as to avoid nocturia.
- Exercise early in the day and get exposed to enough sunlight all day.
- Light boxes are useful in normalizing the sleep-wake cycle.
- Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule.