Sleep Plays Important Role in Brain Health, Regulating Metabolism

By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer

Achieving healthier sleep is an important aspect in maintaining wellness for any individual. Poor sleep is an issue that affects all kinds of people; however, patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) often complain of sleeping problems that are caused by the disease itself or by medicines used to treat or help the person with their PD symptoms.

Well before motor symptoms have begun, excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia and nightmares could be early signs of PD. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), which causes people to act out dreams, is one such example of a sleeping disorder that frequently precedes the development of neurological conditions such as PD and atrophy. Not all people with RBD develop PD, but it is highly recommended that those with RBD and other sleep issues see a neurological specialist since they are at higher risk of developing PD.

Sleep is important in regulating your metabolism and promoting brain health. Researchers found that for women not enough sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more stress. Among the things that happen to your body while you are asleep is that your brain’s waste-flushing system (called the glymphatic system) may be close to 10 times more active when we are asleep compared to when we’re awake. This newly discovered system scrubs away neural waste during sleep linked to the accumulation of toxins in the brain, researchers say.

Recommended practices for achieving healthier sleep

1. It is important to develop a sleep schedule and stick to it even on the weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every night helps you fall asleep and stay asleep by regulating your body’s clock.
2. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, especially within 6 hours of bedtime. Stimulants can keep your mind active and cause problems when trying to go to sleep.
3. Napping may help you get through a tough day, but it could give you problems trying to fall asleep at night. Eliminating daytime naps, especially in the afternoon, should help with sleep.
4. Exercise can improve your health in many ways, and even a light amount of exercise throughout the day will help with falling asleep. Vigorous exercise is best, but try to avoid any heavy exercise within 6 hours of bedtime.
5. Avoid using the bedroom for activities other than sleep, including working on a computer or tablet. This can help to associate this environment with sleep.
6. Try not to have heavy late-night meals. Eating after 6 p.m. not only increases your chances of gaining weight but also causes stress in your body, which leads to less quality sleep.
7. Evaluate your room. Your room should be free from noise. Do whatever you can to minimize distractions with things such as blackout curtains, ear plugs or noise machines.
8. The mattress you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy. Most quality mattress only last about 9 or 10 years, so make sure that you are using a supportive and comfortable mattress to sleep on.

If you are encountering sleep issues, never take over-the-counter sleeping medicines without consulting your doctor first. Some of these over-the-counter and even prescription medicines can cause or worsen sleep problems. Also some sleeping medicines have serious drug interactions with medications prescribed to treat PD.

The best practices for sleep depend on the individual’s body and circumstances. Read on for more tips on getting to sleep and staying asleep with Parkinson’s.

Feel free to contact us at Neurology Solutions if you have unanswered questions about how to get your best sleep.

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Neurology Solutions is accepting new patients seeking a specialist in managing Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and age-related movement disorders. If you are looking to confirm a diagnosis and/or find possible different treatment choices for managing symptoms of a movement disorder, please contact Neurology Solutions or call 512-865-6310 to schedule an appointment.

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