Sleep disorders, a new early symptom of Parkinson’s


The sleep disorders can be an early symptom of the disease Parkinson’s. In some patients, they may develop before other motor symptoms such as tremors or stiffness, traditionally more linked to the pathology.

This is explained by Dr. María Cerdán, neurologist at the Movement Disorders Unit of the Santa Lucía-Santa María Rosell Hospital Complex in Murcia, in a training session organized by the Federation of Parkinson’s Associations of the Region of Murcia (FEPAMUR). All this has had the collaboration of AbbVie.

In the words of the specialist “sleep disorders can appear years before other motor symptoms. They are one of the most common symptoms of this disease and result in a worsening of the patient’s quality of life ”.

This evidence is supported by different international studies that confirm sleep problems as one of the early indicators of this neurodegenerative disease. In Spain, about 150,000 people suffer from Parkinson’s according to data from the Spanish Neurology Society (SEN).

2 out of 3 Parkinson’s patients suffer from sleep disorders

Currently, 2 out of 3 Parkinson’s disease patients suffer from sleep disorders. Among the most common are insomnia, daytime hypersomnolence, and parasomnias. Within all of these, REM sleep behavior disorder is included.

The latter is characterized by “the presence during REM sleep of vigorous motor behaviors associated with dreams of unpleasant content. It greatly affects the quality of sleep of both the patient and the bed partner, who notices that the affected person kicks and makes fighting movements. And it can even receive involuntary blows ”, argues the doctor.

Since, according to the specialist, on many occasions patients are not aware that what happens to them is caused by Parkinson’s disease, “the education of patients and caregivers in these disorders is vital.

Woman with Parkinson's
Woman with Parkinson’s

! The training will allow them to identify it early and transmit it to their reference doctor to look for suitable therapeutic options ”, says Dr. Cerdán. A factor that will also be key in the initial diagnosis of the pathology.

Both doctors and patient associations take part in this training effort. As Jorge Lombardero, president of FEPAMUR, explains, “in associations, patients can learn to identify what their sleep patterns are like, what mistakes they make when resting or relaxation techniques to help with sleep hygiene. We try to improve the quality of life of the group through information and training. ”

Consequences of confinement and Covid-19 in Parkinson’s patients

Confinement has caused 41% of patients with this disease to experience a worsening of their sleep disorders, according to the Covid & Parkinson study. Dr. Cerdán clarifies that this worsening is linked to the lack of mobility and physical exercise. And it is that sleep disorders worsen as motor symptoms advance and the disease progresses.

Added to this is an increase in anxiety due to the general pandemic situation and problems of access to medical care. In this sense, as stated by the neurologist, “the initial telephone attention in many of our patients with movement disorders has been complex, since it is difficult to identify some symptoms in a non-face-to-face way, which has affected their treatment”.

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