Parkinson’s Disease and Sleeping Disorders

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder that is estimated to affect 1 million people in the US. The levels of dopamine that is produced in the brain cells are drastically reduced. This disease affects the central nervous system; as a result, the movement of the muscle is hypermobile and often causes tremors.

Parkinson’s disease is not known to be a genetic condition, as only 15% of cases have noticed family members have also had this condition. As the disease affects the muscles in the body, it can be detrimental to mobility, as well as mentally damaging. Recent research focuses on how sleeping disorders become more common in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinsons Disease

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Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Symptoms of Parkinson’s are gradual and often subtle. In recent research, there has been noticed an increase in looking into the sleeping conditions associated with Parkinson’s disorder.

Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease occur gradually in the first few months/ years. Common side effects of Parkinson’s disease include sleep disturbances; these sleep disturbances can cause a severe disability from Parkinson’s disease.

Common sleep disorders in patients with Parkinson’s disease

Some of the common sleep disorders are listed below:

  • Primary and secondary insomnia.
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Parasomnia
  • Restless legs
  • Sleep behavior disorder

Sleep conditions associated with having Parkinson’s disease

Many sleep conditions associated with Parkinson’s disease fall under the umbrella of sleep behavior disorders. These behavioral changes can worsen the effects that Parkinson’s has on the individual.

Primary and Secondary Insomnia

Primary and secondary insomnia is a common problem in people struggling with Parkinson’s disease. There are different types of insomnia consisting of sleep deprivation, unable to fall asleep, and Sleep-onset insomnia is primary insomnia and secondary insomnia sleep fragmentation. In many instances, these sleep conditions are related to depression and anxiety, which is linked closely to patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Therefore, there are many ways in which one can overcome these problems in creating a routine that will clear minds and help to focus on the day to day tasks rather than staying inside.


Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen/


A further sleep condition that is common in people living with Parkinson’s is Parasomnia is an additional condition that has been studied with Parkinson’s patients. This condition is the name for when strange or dangerous events occur during sleep and, as a result, disrupt the sleep pattern.

Sleeping conditions that put individuals at greater risk of Parkinson’s disease

There are no known risk factors for gaining Parkinson’s disease. However, some pre-existing sleeping conditions can affect the development of Parkinson’s. Not only do these sleep disorders occur as a result of Parkinson’s disease, but there are also some sleep disorders such as rapid eye movement that can be signs of early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

Rapid eye movement to suggest Parkinson’s disease

While Rapid eye movement is an ongoing condition once a patient is diagnosed with Parkinson's, it is suggested that this is a common pre-diagnosis of the disease. Rapid eye movement is a condition that occurs in a phase of sleep, which is a typically developing human without Parkinson's disease is in a state of paralysis.

However, when Parkinson's suffering has this condition, they do not experience the paralysis of all limp limbs, they experience the opposite. An individual will, in this state, lash out as their body is more active while they are asleep.

Therefore, Rapid eye movement can be a close predictor of contracting Parkinson's disease. Research at the University of Montreal considered whether this condition was able to predict whether an individual gets Parkinson's or not.

Rapid eye movement occurs in a phase of sleep when a typically functioning human without this condition would be in a state of paralysis. However, with Rapid eye movement, an individual can experience changes during their sleep and can sometimes lash out, as their body is active during sleep. This condition can increase the likelihood of contracting Parkinson's disease as well as gaining the disease years earlier than predicted.

Knowing whether you are going to develop Parkinson's if you have this condition is not yet known. It is only once the individual has Parkinson's that they are made aware of the pre-existing condition Rapid eye movement.

A study of 1,280 people looked into people with Rapid eye movements, and 73.5% of people involved in this study have developed Parkinson's disease.

Can Parkinson’s be predicted through sleep disorders?

Although, taking into consideration the side effects in sleeping patterns and Parkinson’s, not all these sleeping patterns are apparent in an individual with Parkinson’s. The side effects differ, and some individuals do not encounter sleeping problems. It is also evident that one with these sleeping conditions may not have Parkinson’s disease.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Francesca Burton, B.Sc.

Written by

Francesca Burton, B.Sc.

Francesca majored in Psycholinguistics, focusing on the science behind language learning and production. She holds a Bachelor's of Science (B.Sc.) in Linguistics and the English language from Bangor University, UK. She enjoys writing about the recovery and development of language, as well as other areas of medicine.


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