Sleep Disorders in Parkinson Patients

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In a perfect world, sleep is a time for rest, renewal, and regeneration.  Unfortunately, for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, this is not the case.  There are a number of reasons that these patients suffer from sleep loss and sleep disorders, and these factors continue to be researched by physicians for a better understanding.  On average, Parkinson’s patients sleep about 5 hours per night, and wake up twice as many times as adults (in the same age group) without Parkinson’s.  Reasons for sleep disturbances can include insomnia, nightmares, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, nocturia and periodic limb movement disorder.  This of course results in daytime sleepiness (76% of Parkinson’s patients), fatigue, and inability to focus, to name a few symptoms. 

The above-mentioned sleep-related signs can have a major impact on quality of life for Parkinson’s patients.  Treatment for these symptoms/disorders should be integrated with their therapeutic regimens such as physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and medication regimens.

A recent study by UCLA researchers found an association between Parkinson’s disease and narcolepsy, a disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep/wake cycles normally.  There may also be a connection between REM sleep disorder and the subsequent development of Parkinson’s disease.  Sleep disorders may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, even before the tremors, memory loss and motor symptoms begin.

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