There are so many reasons why sleep can be a major problem for those of us living with Parkinson’s. I can’t remember a night in the past few years when I haven’t been awake at 3am. Counting sheep doesn’t help, so last night I tried counting the reasons why people with Parkinson’s typically don’t sleep well. It didn’t help me sleep but it did help pass an hour or so which can only be a good thing. Here’s what I came up with…………
1. Restless Legs
Restless leg syndrome, common in Parkinson’s causes an uncontrollable urge to move our legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. Moving eases the discomfort for a short while but leads to very restless nights.
2. Muscle Cramps
The cramps in our legs present suddenly and can be incredibly painful.
3. Vivid Dreams / Nightmares
The sleep that we have is haunted by vivid dreams. Some of us act out our dreams which can be dangerous for us and our bed partners.
Wonky signals from our slightly wonky brains cause contractions in our muscles. At best it is uncomfortable but for many of us it can be very painful.
Our muscles work overtime when they too should be resting. As they become shortened and contracted, we become rigid and sore. We continually move to find that evasive comfortable position. This rigidity makes rolling over in bed a real problem, particularly when we’ve been lying on our backs.
Try sleeping while your jaw / arm(s) / hand(s) / leg(s) won’t stop moving!
We need to get up to wee more often than most, sometimes accompanied with a degree of urgency. At the time that our medications are at their least effective and moving anywhere quickly is simply not possible!
8. Sleep Apnoea
Periods where we don’t breath. Often accompanied by choking / snoring noises.
9. Temperature Control
Poor temperature control goes hand in hand with Parkinson’s. Too hot, too cold, sweating, shivering but rarely ‘just right’.
It’s a balancing act that can be hard to get right overnight, when medication often wears off.
Too much = Abnormal movements keep us awake.
Too little = Stiff, sore, slow to move and wide awake.
11. The Mind
Anxiety, depression, apathy are common symptoms of Parkinson’s which can also affect sleep.
Of course, life carries on regardless, so we are disturbed by things other than our Parkinson’s symptoms. Late night revellers, dogs barking, emergency service vehicle sirens, a partner’s snoring, the phone ringing, the usual aches and pains of getting older that seem worse in the still of the night. Oh and did I mention the menopause?! Finally, just in case we hadn’t had enough interruptions, and despite being 60 miles from the coast, as summer approaches, the seagulls nesting on our roof start squawking each morning from 4am.
It is nothing short of a miracle that we get any sleep at all.
And of course……tonight we all lose a hour’s sleep as the clocks go forward.
PS Mum, don’t worry. I get just about enough sleep to just about function during the day and look how productive the ‘wee, small hours’ can be!
Signing Off at 04.30am
Images Source: ClipArt Library
3 thoughts on “3am and Counting…….”
You have so much to contend with – things I would never have even considered. Thank you for sharing, and educating us all. Not sure it will be of benefit to you, but one thing I started doing when I kept waking in the night was to cover up my bedside clock. It stopped me staying awake, constantly checking and thinking, ‘I’ve been awake 10 mins/ an hour/ 2 hours. Although I was probably awake a similar amount of time, because I couldn’t quantify it, I somehow didn’t feel quite so exhausted the next day! Xx
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Hi – what a brilliant (and amusing) description of how parkinson’s affects sleep. Once again it’s reassuring that it’s not just me!. I am going to show it to my wife and kids to help their understanding.
Thanks again – keep up the good work. Les
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Agreed! I get to sleep every night around 11 to 1130 without any problem at all, but woke up several times in the night for the loo (okay so I’m 59-year-old man so part of the territory I guess) .I never get a day a lie in these days and like you often awake in the night. And once in a while terrible calf cramps..
I have found that spacing out the medication over the day and taking the last Sinemet at 10:30 pm helps slightly. Previously I was not taking anything after 6 pm on the basis that I was doing no activity later in the day.. Although to be frank I am fairly convinced that if I didn’t take any medication ever I would not notice any difference!
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