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Diseases & Conditions

Living with Parkinson's Disease: Sleep Problems

People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease are usually left to deal with a range of symptoms that can make day-to-day tasks difficult. Among these, sleep — one of our most basic needs — can be disrupted and hard to achieve. Often, Parkinson’s patients have sleep problems that are caused by the disease itself, or are brought on by medicines used to treat or help the patient.

Sleep problems associated with Parkinson’s usually include an inability to fall asleep, difficulty in staying asleep, uncomfortable sensations in the legs at night (a condition known as restless legs syndrome), nightmares, acting out of dreams that might lead to accidents or injuries, and daytime drowsiness. If you are encountering any of these symptoms, never take over-the-counter sleeping medicines to help the problem without first consulting your doctor. Some over-the-counter and prescription medicines cause or worsen sleep problems.

What can I do to help my sleep problem?

Because the sleep disturbance might be caused by other medicines that are being prescribed to cope with Parkinson’s disease, you should consult your doctor about possible alternative medicines that could be used instead that will not interfere with sleep.

A sleep disturbance might also indicate depression in a person who has Parkinson’s disease. Depression might bring on fatigue, a changed level of physical and social activity, and a tendency to not sleep soundly or not at all. If these problems persist you should discuss them with your doctor.

Following are some tips for Parkinson’s patients to promote more restful sleep.

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine within six hours of bed time.
  • Do not take long naps during the day, and participate in activities that keep you physically busy.
  • Avoid using your bedroom for activities other than sleeping, such as reading, watching television, or working.
  • Remedies such as a warm glass of milk, a massage, and an expression of affection might also help a Parkinson’s patient to sleep better. Also, a hot shower or bath can be helpful in helping a patient to relax.

Depression, which is often common among Parkinson’s patients, can also contribute to insomnia. Doctors can usually prescribe an antidepressant or a sedative to aid in sleep. However, studies have shown that taking measures to promote relaxation and good sleep habits work better than sleeping pills.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/27/2008...#9366