REM sleep Disorder in Seniors with Parkinson’s

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Parkinson’s disease is a complex condition often characterized by a loss of motor control, involuntary tremors, muscle stiffness and difficulty maintaining balance. One of the early signs of PD is difficulty reaching a recuperative level of sleep, known as the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. Disruptions within this phase of sleep can affect the severity of other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.

Linking Parkinson’s Disease with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

In a study involving patients with REM sleep behavior disorder, characterized by acting out dreams during sleep, nearly a third of the individuals participating in the study showed signs of having Parkinson’s disease, suggesting a link between PD and the disruption of REM sleep. Some other sleep problems commonly associated with Parkinson’s include:

• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Nightmares (often causing REM sleep to be interrupted)
• Periodic leg movement disorder
• Nocturia (urination while experiencing a nightmare)

Treating REM Sleep Issues in Parkinson’s Patients

REM sleep disorder can be especially troublesome for at-home Parkinson’s caregivers and family members since acting out dreams can include wandering or lashing out at the person in the same bed. Clonazepam is one of the drugs that has been shown to be effective for addressing Parkinson’s-related sleep issues. The following remedies may also help correct sleep issues experienced by seniors with PD:

• Maintaining or reestablishing a regular sleep schedule
• Increasing daytime activities (to encourage a more productive REM sleep)
• Taking a sedative (with doctor approval) before going to sleep

It’s estimated that sleep disorders are common in anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of all Parkinson’s patients. When combined with underlying motor symptoms, changes in sleep patterns can make the disease appear to be more advanced than it really is. As a caregiver or family member providing home care in Caledon for an aging parent or grandparent, observing and reporting any changes in sleep habits may lead to treatments likely to restore the essential REM sleep process.

Are you the primary caregiver for a senior loved one with Parkinson’s? If you could use additional support meeting his or her care needs, Home Care Assistance can help. In addition to reliable Parkinson’s care, we also provide stroke, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care Caledon families trust. For more information, give our office a call at 905-951-8885 and schedule your complimentary in-home consultation.