Tips for Dealing with Sleep Disorders in Parkinson’s : by Dr. De Leon

As many of you know sleep problems can wreak havoc with our lives if f we don’t get enough rest we are liable to turn from a mild manner soft spoken individual to an irritable cranky creature!

Not only does poor sleep affect our mood but also causes poor concentration leading to memory loss, fatigue, increase weight, and poor judgment. All of these can mimic actual Parkinson’s symptoms either from disease or as side effect of medications.

Therefore, when we don’t get enough sleep we are doing ourselves a disservice and making our symptoms seem worse while making our doctors jobs more difficult as they try to sort out the source. One way to avoid this confusion is to tell your doctor immediately if you are having trouble with sleep and be specific. The more details you tell them the better they are able to help you get back on your feet.

Keep a record of your problem :

1) Is the problem staying asleep

2) Falling asleep

3) Pain at night

4) Restless legs

5) Trouble turning- getting stuck in one place or in the sheets

6) Going to bathroom to often (as you are falling as sleep or does it awake you from sleep)

7) Trouble breathing and snoring

8)  Acting out dreams at night and or talking during sleep

9) Vivid dreaming and or hallucinations

10) Disturbance in sleep wake cycle-sleepy during day and awake at night

Sleep is a way we humans encode all the information we have learned during the day and store for long term. If sleep becomes interrupted enough this will lead to short term memory loss making it seem like you might have cognitive problems when I fact may just be sleep deprived. However, for those that do have early cognitive problems can through them into full blown psychosis and hallucinations and for those that have advance dementia or memory loss it will make things much worst. Not only this but also increase high blood pressure and risk of having a stroke and early death particularly in the presence of sleep apnea. As we age, our bodies do often require less sleep and there is a slight shift in cycle going to bed earlier and awaking earlier. But most people according to studies still need a good 7-8 hours to function optimally.

Some of the sleep problems can be treated more easily than others. For instance, for shift in awake cycle …two ways to treat one is to treat with medications like Provigil to maintain alert during daytime and prevent falling asleep so can then fall asleep at night and / or maintain a routine sleep hygiene where no naps are allowed during the daytime.  You MUST also arise at same time and go to bed at same time daily. Plus only use bedroom to sleep or  for sexual activities. Keep bedroom dark at a comfortable temperature. Do not try to force sleep. If you cannot sleep get out of bed and move to a separate room to read or watch TV or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed, if still unable to sleep repeat cycle. Do not exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. If you have to go to bathroom a lot at night avoid drinking fluids 3 hours prior to bed time. Ask physician for medications to help with falling asleep or staying  asleep if none of these things work…there are many options.

If you are snoring and having sleep apnea your doctor will recommend a sleep study test-called a sonogram. I believe every Parkinson’s patient should have this done at some point in their disease process. This will also help evaluate for restless leg and periodic leg movements as well as REM behavior ( acting out in sleep your dreams when your body is supposed to be paralyzed!) so that adequate treatments can then be given. One sign that you might have sleep apnea is early morning headache or awaking from sleep with headache. Tegretol or Klonopin are some of the medications used for REM sleep disorders.

Do not drink alcohol particularly after dinner since this tends to interfere with sleep pattern may help to fall asleep quickly but will often arouse you because it causes shallow sleep patterns plus it can severely worsen sleep apnea. If trouble falling asleep- Do Not drink caffeinated beverages after noon and limit amount to one a day as well as try taking decaf products. These still contain caffeine only 50% less so you won’t feel totally deprived. If you smoke consider cessation since this is a stimulant. Increase physical activity– being active helps to deepen sleep.

If pain is a factor- your doctor will have to evaluate the source and treat accordingly. As he or she will also have to adjust dosages of medications if experiencing wearing off or freezing in bed and getting stuck. Likewise if having hallucinations. Therefore, if you are having any sleep disturbances make sure you speak with your physician as soon as possible since there is usually a good and effective treatment for most of the problems of sleep. Make sure you do not make any changes to your medication regimen without first consulting your doctor.


Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at or at;, All materials here forth are property of Defeatparkinsons. without express written consent, these materials only may be used for viewers personal & non-commercial uses which do not harm the reputation of Defeatparkinsons organization or Dr. M. De Leon provided you do not remove any copyrights. To request permission to reproduce release of any part or whole of content, please contact me at contributor


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