Parkinson's Disease and Sleep

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reduction of symptoms. This is called a "honeymoon." After a few years, the honeymoon ends and symptoms intensify, especially the motor symptoms.

People with Parkinson’s disease often have excessive daytime sleepiness. They also fall into REM sleep more quickly than the average person, according to their brain activity. These are both symptoms of narcolepsy and although there is no evidence that narcolepsy is a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease or vice versa, sleep-related symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s may be successfully treated with drugs that are used for narcolepsy, including stimulants for daytime sleepiness and sleeping medication for nighttime sleep. Bothersome dream-enacting behaviors often respond favorably to clonazepam, a sedative medication.

As Parkinson’s disease progresses and symptoms get worse, sleep problems may become more serious. For example, pain and uncontrollable movements may cause severe insomnia. Nighttime symptoms may be improved by taking Parkinson’s medication later in the day or by taking hypnotic sleep aides.

Insomnia may also be caused by certain medications used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms. In that case, taking medication earlier in the day may improve sleep. Keep in mind that any change in medication – including the addition of sleep aides or the timing of administration - should be prescribed by a physician. Sleep aides you can buy without a prescription usually contain diphenhydramine, an anti-histamine, which blocks absorption of dopamine.

Daytime sleepiness may also increase as Parkinson’s disease progresses. Using stimulant or alerting medications during the day may prevent sleep attacks and help patients avoid excessive napping, which may contribute to insomnia. In addition to drug therapies, behavioral techniques should be used for sleep and sleepiness problems in Parkinson’s patients.


Coping with Parkinson’s disease isn’t easy and will depend on the type and severity of the symptoms. However, there are certain things you can do to minimize symptoms, including taking medication as prescribed and getting healthy sleep. Here are some sleep tips for Parkinson’s patients:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Take sedating medication late enough in the day so that you don’t get