Effects of poor quality sleep issues with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement which is most often characterized by tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and problems with balance and coordination. These symptoms are caused by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, which play a crucial role in regulating movement.

One of the most common complaints among people with Parkinson’s disease is the worsening of symptoms at night. This can mean that, along with all the other symptoms, a patient can also have trouble sleeping. While the exact reasons behind this phenomenon are not fully understood, researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to it.

Sleep problems with Parkinson’s disease

According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 90% of people with Parkinson’s disease experience sleep disturbances at some point and this can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Many people with Parkinson’s disease also have coexisting sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, which can further disrupt sleep. This interrupted sleep pattern can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm. 

Poor-quality sleep and worsening Parkinson’s symptoms

Research has shown that a lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep can exacerbate Parkinson’s symptoms. A study published in Parkinson’s News Today found that people with Parkinson’s disease who reported poorer sleep quality also had more severe motor symptoms, cognitive issues, emotional issues, and insomnia. This suggests that sleep disturbances may contribute to the progression of the disease.

The exact mechanisms behind this relationship are not fully understood, but there are several theories. One is that sleep disturbances may lead to increased inflammation in the brain, which can damage dopamine-producing neurons and worsen Parkinson’s symptoms. Another is that poor-quality sleep may disrupt the brain’s ability to repair itself, leading to cumulative damage over time.

Fatigue and Parkinson’s symptoms

In addition to sleep problems, many people with Parkinson’s disease also experience fatigue. Fatigue is a tiredness that is not necessarily related to physical exertion. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including medication side effects, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Fatigue can also contribute to worsening Parkinson’s symptoms. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, fatigue is associated with increased motor and non-motor symptoms, including tremors, rigidity, and depression. This may be because fatigue can reduce a person’s motivation to engage in physical activity, which is important for maintaining muscle strength and flexibility.

Symptoms worse at night

While sleep disturbances and fatigue can contribute to worsening Parkinson’s symptoms overall, many people report that their symptoms are particularly severe at night. According to a study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, symptoms can be partially or totally relieved during the day, but they may reappear in the evening or night.

It is thought that people with Parkinson’s disease may experience a “wearing off” phenomenon, where their medication becomes less effective as the day goes on. 

Parkinson’s disease is a complex and multifaceted condition, and the reasons why symptoms worsen at night are not fully understood. However, research has shown that sleep disturbances, poor-quality sleep, and fatigue can all contribute to the worsening of symptoms overall. If you are living with Parkinson’s disease and experiencing nighttime symptoms, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific symptoms and concerns. This may include adjusting your medication schedule, practicing good sleep hygiene, and engaging in physical activity to help manage fatigue and maintain muscle strength. With the right support and care, many people with Parkinson’s disease are able to manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.

There are several strategies and treatments that can help people with Parkinson’s disease manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. One of the most important is medication management, as adjusting medication schedules or doses can help alleviate nighttime symptoms. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized medication plan that balances symptom relief with potential side effects.

In addition to medication management, there are several non-pharmacological strategies that can help manage Parkinson’s symptoms and improve sleep quality. One of these is practicing good sleep hygiene, which involves establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, may also help promote relaxation and improve sleep.

LSVT BIG and PWR Moves are two specialized exercise programs designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease. LSVT BIG focuses on improving movement and balance, while PWR Moves incorporates rhythmic and functional movements to improve strength and flexibility. While these programs are not specifically designed to improve sleep, research has suggested that exercise may improve sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s disease.

A study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease found that a 12-week exercise program that included both aerobic and resistance training improved sleep quality and daytime sleepiness in people with Parkinson’s disease. Another study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that a program of tai chi, a gentle form of exercise, improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Working closely with a healthcare provider and incorporating a combination of medication management, non-pharmacological strategies, and specialized exercise programs may help improve overall quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Author: James Ferrara

James Ferrara is both an Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist. He has spent years honing his craft in this industry, and will be able to help you improve your mobility. His education and experience in the industry includes:

20+ Years Therapy Experience, 6+ Years Outpatient Therapy Experience,11 Years Home Healthcare Experience,Occupational Therapy Master Degree and Certification for Lymphedema Therapy from the Academy of Lymphatic Studies, Certified Therapist for LSVT BIG®, Parkinson’s Wellness Rehab – PWR, Spalding University graduate since 2006, Sarasota School of Massage Therapy graduate since 2001, Athletic Training Degree from Illinois State University since 1998, Certified Lymphedema & Wound Therapist – International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute

Be sure to check out Jim’s previous blog post on Lymphedema Therapist’s Guide to Wound Care using our link: https://suncoastftmrehab.com/lymphedema-wound-care-management/

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