Parkinson’s disease often takes a toll on our sleep. The muscle cramps can wake you up several times a night. The stiffness and rigidity of PD makes it difficult to get comfortable. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night can become a herculean task that consumes a lot of sleep time. A depressed mood can disrupt sleep cycles until you find yourself waking too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. Some of us have restless legs syndrome where you feel you have to move your legs around a lot and that feeling will of course keep you awake. Many of us have intense dreams and sometimes nightmares and these bad dreams can wake us up. All too often we awake in the morning not feeling really rested so we go through the rest of the day feeling tired, irritable and sleepy.
So what do you do about all these sleep problems? Certainly speaking to your doctor is a good idea. There are medicines that can help you sleep. The active cultivation of good sleep habits is easy to dismiss but can be useful, although you must avoid an ineffectual piecemeal "Band-aid" sort of approach to a really troubling set of medical problems. But these habits, once acquired, really do make a difference and they are worth the effort involved to acquire them.
Good Sleep Habits
Take the next two weeks and promise yourself that you will do your best to enact and acquire the following sleep habits:
- Stay on schedule: Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day. Schedules help your body and your internal clock to initiate sleep and wakefulness.
- Exercise at least 20 minutes each day — preferably in the morning. Daily moderate exercise improves sleep in myriad ways, such as stimulating the release of sleep-inducing hormones. But don’t exercise right before going to bed because it arouses you.
- Create a comfortable sleeping place; a cool, well ventilated room without noise, people (except your bed partner of course), TV, food or other distractions.
- Reserve your bed for sleep. Don’t use it regularly for other activities like reading, watching TV, or talking with others.
- Avoid large meals and too much drink when sleep time approaches. A snack is OK.
- If you wake up during the night and can’t easily fall back to sleep, try reading a book. Listening to relaxing music or meditating but avoid TV, talking with others or telephone.
- Be patient with yourself and your PD.
Garcia-Borreguero D, Larrosa O, Bravo M. (2003). Sleep Med Rev. 7(2):115-29. Review