By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer

We all know that adequate sleep plays an important role in our health and ability to function effectively each day. But what you may not know is that sleep problems such as insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness and nightmares may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD), even before motor symptoms have begun (National Sleep Foundation).

As March is National Sleep Awareness Month, sleep tips and studies are prominent in the news. Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center would like to explore sleep related to many of the conditions we see every day, specifically PD.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), which causes people to act out dreams, often precedes the development of disorders such as PD and is associated with other neurological conditions such as atrophy. Not all people with RBD or sleep issues develop PD but if you have RBD or other sleep disorders and think you may be at risk of developing PD, it is a good idea to visit a neurological specialist near you.

Often times, patients with PD complain of poor sleep. Often, those with PD have sleep problems that are caused by the disease itself or by medicines used to treat or help the person with their PD symptoms.

Most commonly, patients with PD experience the inability to sleep through the night and difficulty returning to sleep after awakening. If you are encountering any of these symptoms, never take over-the-counter sleeping medicines to help the problem without consulting your doctor first. Some over-the-counter and prescription medicines cause or worsen sleep problems, and some have serious drug interactions with medications prescribed to treat PD.

If you have Parkinson’s and are experiencing trouble getting to sleep, some recommended practices for healthier sleep are: a regular rise time and bedtime, avoiding stimulants, shorter naps or no daytime napping, exercise, and avoiding the use of your bedroom for activities other than sleep. Problems staying asleep can be improved with: avoiding heavy exercise within 6 hours of bedtime, avoiding heavy late night meals and minimizing light and noise in your bedroom. For more tips on getting to sleep and staying asleep with Parkinson’s click here.

The best practices for sleep also depend on a person’s body and circumstances. If you are complying with all practices for healthy sleep and still experiencing trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.

Power For Parkinson’s, a program of the Capital Area Parkinson’s Society here in Austin, is a great place for individuals suffering from Parkinson’s to begin improving well-being through exercise which can also improve sleep habits. View their calendar for upcoming classes and look for other similar organizations near you if not located near Austin.

Healthy sleep should be a priority for all and especially those with diseases such as Parkinson’s that can make sleep deprivation just another barrier to leading a normal lifestyle. Feel free to visit us at Neurology Solutions if you have unanswered questions regarding how to get the best sleep. You can schedule an appointment by calling 512-977-7000, or you may contact us here.

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