Parkinson’s and its treatment causes changes to your brain that can affect your sleep. You may develop insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders. Treatment, such as behavioral therapies and medications, can help.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that affects movement and causes other symptoms, such as sleep disturbances and skin changes.
The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that more than 75% of people with Parkinson’s experience sleep-related symptoms. Common sleep disorders among people with Parkinson’s include:
- sleep apnea
- REM sleep behavior disorder
vivid dreams(which may be a mild form of REM sleep disorder or independent of it, may also be a predictor of motor and cognitive decline in Parkinson’s) restless leg syndrome daytime sleepiness
Sometimes, these conditions occur because of the changes Parkinson’s causes in the brain. They can also be caused by Parkinson’s symptoms, medications, and co-occurring mental health conditions.
This article looks at some types of sleep disorders you may be at increased risk for with Parkinson’s and the treatments that can help you manage these disorders.
People with Parkinson’s can experience a few sleep disorders, including:
- Insomnia: Insomnia is an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This condition is common in the general population, affecting about one-third of people, but people with Parkinson’s are even more likely to develop it. Insomnia can sometimes worsen as Parkinson’s progresses.
- Sleep apnea: About 40% of people with Parkinson’s have sleep apnea. This condition causes people who develop it to briefly stop breathing and awaken during sleep. It also causes symptoms like snoring, headaches, and daytime sleepiness, and it can lead to serious health concerns.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder: REM is the part of your sleep cycle that allows you to dream. Usually, your body doesn’t move, and only your eyes move during REM sleep, but when someone has REM sleep behavior disorder, the rest of the muscles stay active and can act out dreams. About half of people with Parkinson’s disease have REM sleep behavior disorder.
Parkinson’s causes changes in the brain and affects the way some neurotransmitters act in the body.
Sometimes, these sleep disruptions can occur before other Parkinson’s symptoms appear and before the condition occurs. For instance, it’s common for REM sleep disorder to start 5 to 10 years before Parkinson’s is first diagnosed.
When Parkinson’s symptoms do appear, symptoms such as rigidity and tremors can also contribute to difficulty sleeping.
Also, some Parkinson’s medications can disrupt sleep. This can happen because some medications can prevent you from falling asleep, which can be affected by the time when medication is at its highest peak and when it’s wearing off.
In addition, medications that make you sleepy can make you sleep too much during the day and at night, or daytime sleeping can lead to nighttime insomnia.
Parkinson’s is also linked to mental health conditions and mood disorders. Many people with Parkinson’s are also managing conditions such as depression or anxiety. These conditions are known to disrupt sleep.
Several treatment options can help treat sleeping disorders for people with Parkinson’s. The proper treatment will depend on the sleeping disorder and its severity.
Options might include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is often used to help treat insomnia, especially if someone also manages depression and anxiety. It can help people find and correct thoughts and actions that might disrupt sleep.
- Relaxation therapy: This therapy includes guided meditation, deep breathing, and biofeedback to help you relax and gain more restful sleep.
- Light therapy: Light therapy uses exposure to bright light to treat insomnia and depression. It’s a safe and noninvasive treatment reported to be effective for many people with Parkinson’s.
- Sleep restrictions: This treatment puts you on a sleep schedule. Initially, you’ll be limited in the number of hours you sleep. Your sleep time will gradually increase until you can get a full night’s sleep.
- Reconditioning: This treatment focuses on changing your habits so that your bed is used only for sleep and sexual activity.
- Bed padding and barriers: People with REM sleep behavior disorder and their partners can benefit from bed modifications such as padding and barriers.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines: A CPAP machine is a treatment for sleep apnea that you wear at home while you sleep. It keeps your airways open to help you breathe at night.
- Melatonin: Melatonin supplements can help treat insomnia and REM sleep behavior disorder.
- Sedative medications: Sometimes, sedative medications, such as Zolpidem, are an option to treat insomnia. However, these medications are highly addictive and are typically used if no other treatments are successful.
- Clonazepam: The medication clonazepam can help treat REM sleep behavior disorder.
Parkinson’s disease causes changes to the brain. This can disrupt sleep and lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and REM sleep behavior disorder.
Also, Parkinson’s medications, symptoms, and commonly linked mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, can disrupt sleep.
Treatment can help manage sleep disorders for people with Parkinson’s. The exact treatment depends on the specific sleep disorder and its severity. Options such as CBT, light therapy, relaxation therapy, reconditioning, and medications can help people get a good night’s rest.