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The community that never sleeps

I rarely get more than five hours sleep a night, far short of the eight hours the average, healthy adult needs to function optimally. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but like clockwork, I’m awakened by the need to use the bathroom and then must get a drink to relieve what I affectionately call “cotton ball mouth.”

As I make my way from the bedroom to the kitchen, the glow of my computer beckons me to check the news headlines, read my email, write an article, and/or play a “quick” game of on-line bridge or Scrabble. I cannot resist such temptation. I promise myself I will return to bed within an hour, but I rarely do. The wee morning hours, in my unmedicated state, are my most productive time.

The trade off is that sleep deprivation impairs our ability to concentrate, problem solve, make decisions, handle stress, and moderate our emotions. Worse yet, it causes us to eat more and gain weight because the amount and quality of our sleep affects hormones that regulate feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal. This explains why I hear Ben and Jerry calling my name in the dark of the night.

Another adverse effect of sleep deprivation is that as soon as I lie down on the couch to read or watch tv, or climb into the passenger seat of our car, I fall asleep. Studies show that I am far from alone. About 70% of people with Parkinson’s experience sleep disturbances ranging from “excessive daytime sleepiness” to vivid dreams; jerking, involuntary movements of limbs (Restless Leg Syndrome); and sudden “sleep attacks” that compromise safety behind the wheel and in the workplace, and jeopardize people’s independence.

Sleep disturbances associated with PD can result from depression, medication, stiffness and difficulty turning over in bed, and a frequent urge to urinate. Working with your doctor to identify the underlying cause(s) is critical to finding an effective treatment.

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Tips to improve your sleep hygiene

  • Exercise regularly in the late afternoon, not in the evening.
  • Limit napping to 20-30 minutes, 1 to 2 times per day.
  • Do not nap in the evening.
  • Avoid eating heavy evening meals.
  • Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate), nicotine, and alcohol within 6 hours of your regular bedtime.
  • Write down “worry” issues to avoid ruminating at night.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine (soak in a hot bath, read, listen to music).
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Be sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Follow the “20 minute” rule: When unable to sleep in bed for 20 minutes, get up and do a “boring” activity for 20 minutes, then return to bed. If unable to fall asleep in 20 minutes, repeat the process.
  • Awake at the same time each morning regardless of sleep difficulty the previous night.

To all:

Sheryl wrote this article. I had to laugh to myself when I checked my email at 1:30a.m. - Sheryl had sent the article at 3:30a.m. her time. It was a sleepless night for her when she sent it - and yet another sleepless night when I received it. We often exchange a flurry of emails in the wee hours - but avoid using the phone to not disturb my sleeping husband!


email us directly at: Sheryl@pdplan4life.com

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Without express written consent, this material may only be used for your own personal and noncommercial uses which do not harm the reputation of PDPlan LLC, provided that you do not remove any copyright. To request permission to reproduce, please contact PDPlan LLC at Sheryl@pdplan4life.com

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