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Getting a good night's sleep with Parkinson's disease


"I have a much better day if I have a good nights sleep"


  • Disturbed sleep disrupts the lives of most people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and their families. Less sleep at night can in turn lead to general fatigue and daytime drowsiness. You may nod off as soon as you sit down during the day and yet wake frequently during the night.


  • There are many possible causes:


  • Parkinsonian symptoms of stiffness, tremor, cramp and difficulty turning over in bed may make sleep difficult.


  • Drug treatment for PD itself may cause side effects of insomnia, nightmares and hallucinations (as well as daytime drowsiness).


  • Associated conditions of depression, dementia, restless legs, sleep apnoea or need to pass urine may disrupt sleep.


  • You should follow general advice that helps to promote a good night's sleep. This includes keeping as active as possible during the day with adequate exposure to sunlight, avoiding a high fluid intake and stimulants such as coffee and tea in the evening, establishing a bedtime routine, possibly including a warm bath and a milky drink before going to bed, and ensuring the room itself is quiet, warm and comfortable.


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  • Appropriate choice and timing of drugs for PD is important. Longer acting levodopa preparations may help, or an extra rapid onset preparation taken during the night. Some PD drugs can worsen insomnia.
  • Turning in bed can often be a problem. It is easier to turn on a firm mattress. If the mattress is soft you may want to place a board underneath it. Turning is easier with satin or nylon nightwear or sheets. Wearing knitted socks can give you more grip.

  • If you are experiencing problems with going to the toilet at night, proper diagnosis is important to guide the correct choice of treatment. If problems persist, you may want to consider a bedside commode or portable non-spill urinal.

  • Sleeping tablets offer only short term benefit and can worsen balance, increase risk of falls and cause daytime drowsiness and confusion. If necessary, they  should only be used in small doses for the shortest possible period of time. Aromatherapy with lavender oil (or lavender bags or pillows) is reputed to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation

  • A good night’s sleep (or even an afternoon nap) seems to benefit symptoms of PD, with most people reporting the morning as their “best time of day”.

If you are not getting a good night’s sleep you should discuss this with your family doctor or specialist doctor or nurse. Referral to a urology or respiratory specialist may be helpful in some cases.

Useful websites include:

‘No More Sleepless Nights’, by Peter Hauri and Shirley Linde, published in 1996 by John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0 4711 49047

Useful websites include:

30 Simple Tips to Help You Get to Sleep


This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris