Sleep Disorder as an Early Indicator of Parkinson’s

Researchers are still looking for ways to identify Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases before the physical symptoms become obvious. Recent attention has been on problems with smell — that a standard doctor’s office smell test can be a remarkably effective predictor of Parkinson’s. That, in turn, might allow doctors to prescribe substances that have a protective effect.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (including Dr. Bradley Boeve, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) are know looking at whether certain types of sleep disorders are associated with developing dementias, such as Parkinson’s. The studies (press releases at mayo.org) focused on REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), a condition where people act out events in their dreams, sometimes violently.
RBD has long been anecdotally associated with Parkinson’s. These studies were apparently the first to examine this proposition in a larger population-based method. The studies determined that other neurological problems, such as cognitive decline, anxiety, apathy, and Parkinsonism, were statistically more likely to happen in people with RBD than in the general population. 
More study is definitely in order, especially regarding the co-incidence of Parkinsonism. But it does make me wonder if the cognitive problems are simply a result of poor quality sleep. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Problem with Sleep? Only When I’m Not Sleeping

I am so tired.

Knowing that sleep problems are a part of having Parkinson’s disease doesn’t make having a problem any more tolerable. It could be worse: I could be getting no relief at all.

I sleep with a C-PAP, basically a compressor that shoots air under pressure through my nose and into my lungs. The system keeps my upper airways from collapsing at the instant an exhale turns to inhale.

Without it, I would suffer an average of 67 “waking incidents” per hour, all night long, every night. The day after my first night in a sleep lab was bliss, and it only got better as the months went by. My long twilight of ill temper and dulled thought receded into long-term memory.

Every so often, the new routine is disrupted. Maybe it’s the congestion from low-level, seasonal allergies. It could be the new headgear, which gets replaced every few months (the tubing develops pinholes in regular use).

Whatever. The last few days have been tough. I’m slowly gaining more uninterrupted hours each night, but the cumulative effect has been increasingly apparent. Here’s hoping for a good night.