One of the things that many people with Parkinson’s Disease commonly struggle with, is our sleeping patterns. If you listen to anyone living with Parkinson’s, you will almost certainly hear regular expressions of frustration, and even desperation, at the difficulty of achieving any sort of regular sleep pattern. In fact, in all likelihood, you will also hear of a complete inability to achieve more than three or four hours sleep in any night.
In addition to the life-changing impact upon our physical well-being, Parkinson’s can impact upon our emotional state; for example, triggering stress, anxiety or depression.
With so much to contend with, our ability to sleep may often be disrupted. Sleep deprivation only worsens the symptoms of Parkinson’s. The impact of what can feel like a constant onslaught on our ‘whole being’ cannot be under-estimated.
As a Counsellor and Psychotherapist, here are some of the things that I recommend in helping people to start to develop a regular sleep regime:
- Set your morning wake-up alarm for the same time each day. If your alarm is music, then set some music that is uplifting and energising to emphasise the difference between the restfulness of night and the activity and motivation of the day.
- Create a bedroom that sets the scene for peacefulness, restfulness and comfort.
- Do not consume caffeine or sugar beyond two hours prior to sleep.
- Ensure your body is tired, by being physically active during the day.
- Ensure your mind is tired, by keeping it mentally stimulated and active during the day.
- Avoid napping (no matter how tempting); this can stop you getting sleepy later.
- If something is troubling you, find a time in your day to talk it through with somebody.
- Neither go to bed on a very full, or an empty, stomach.
- Reduce use of alcohol.
- Spend 20 minutes, of an evening, to think through anything causing you anxiety. You don’t have to resolve it; just be clear where you are in progressing towards a solution and see if you can move another step forward, towards a solution. Remind yourself that most difficulties are merely problems that need to be resolved, one step at a time. Reassure yourself that difficult times are followed by better times. Try to remind yourself of the support you have from people and of the resources you have; both material and those within yourself. Try to end your 20 minutes of thought by identifying something that you are currently grateful for.
- Chamomile tea is a relaxant and can form part of a pre-sleep routine.
- Create pre-sleep routines to train the mind and body to prepare for sleepiness.
- Try to get to bed at the same time each day.
- Once in bed, practice meditation while laying still; reminding yourself that you are safe and that you are comfortable.
- Once in bed, practice slow and deep breathing.
- Keep comforting things beside the bed; a night light, a cuddly toy, a loved photo. These can be comforting things to see before you close your eyes and can be of comfort if you see them upon waking during the night. This can reduce anxiety and stress.
- If your sleep is disrupted, or you can’t get to sleep, get up for 15-20 minutes and have a short read, listen to soft music or simply practice slow breathing and meditation. Return to bed, but repeat this exercise if you still cannot sleep.
These recommendations are far from an exhaustive list, but serve to act as a starting point in your progress back to more regular, and restorative, sleep.
If sleeping problems persist, I would always recommend that you see your Doctor, PD Nurse or Neurologist.
© Dean Parsons. 2017.