Sleep disturbance is in fact, a very common symptom for those with Parkinson’s Disease. Close to 80% of us have some sort of issue, be it difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently, restless legs or the more serious REM behavior disorder where some will act out their dreams and move violently at times potentially causing injury to their bed partner (unintentionally of course).
So what can you do? Well there are lifestyle modifications you can make that may help. These suggestions or what we call sleep hygiene include:
- being consistent in your wakeup and sleep times
- appropriate lighting (dark at night, normal lighting during the day if you take a nap)
- using your bed for sleep alone, not catching up on work or watching TV for instance
- avoiding exercise prior to bedtime (the one time I’d not recommend exercising)
- avoiding caffeine, alcohol or tobacco late in the day (seems logical but many a time I’ve had patients tell me that they treasure their cup of tea before bed or that cigarette after dinner – ugh!)
- restricting your liquid intake prior to bedtime (a full bladder is a pretty powerful reason to wake up)
- physical aids. For example sometimes those of us with PD may have trouble turning over in bed or getting into a comfortable position. Satin sheets or a bedside bar can help in that instance.
Apart from these guidelines, sometimes it is necessary to make changes in your medication routine as some of the drugs that we take can cause or worsen sleep issues. In fact dopaminergic drugs can either improve or disrupt sleep depending on the person. Then at times, as in my case, medications need to be added that specifically help you sleep.
As you can guess, knowledge doesn’t always lead to action. I’ve incorporated many of the sleep hygiene suggestions into my nighttime routine. The satin sheets are on order. That brings me back to where I started. Those pills that promise sleep and often deliver (although not as satisfying as how I vaguely remember feeling after a good night’s sleep on my own) are sitting on the counter in front of me. I have to come to the logical conclusion that I need to sleep in order to optimize living well with this disease. My daughter’s words and the frustration on her face really do ring true - pretty good advice. Maybe I need to start looking at things from her perspective, but the light of day is starting at the horizon…I guess the battle between logic and emotion will have to wait till after the hectic pace of yet another crazy day…sweet dreams!