Parkinson Disease is More Than Just a Movement Disorder

Although the treatment of motor symptoms is the primary focus of care for Parkinson disease, helping these patients with sleep disorders is vital because of the impact on quality of life.

Introduction

When people think about Parkinson disease (PD), it typically involves tremors, rigid movements, and akinesia. However, a large amount of people who are diagnosed with PD also experience sleeping disorders, which many say is the worst symptom of all. The most common disorders are insomnia, sleep disordered breathing (SDB), excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), and restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Although the treatment of motor symptoms is important, more focus should be put on helping patients with PD with their sleep disorders because it means a better quality of life. This is where pharmacists can step in and help patients with PD.

Study Description

Researchers from Germany recognized a need for a deeper dive into the non-motor symptoms (NMS) of PD because of the negative impact on quality of life. They did this by searching through PubMed for controlled clinical trials involving PD in relation to sleep disorders.

Key Findings

The place to start in the quest to decrease NMS effecting patients’ quality of life is to gather an extensive health history, focusing on sleep interruptions throughout the night. However, when choosing treatment options, it is also important to obtain information about other conditions that may be causing sleep disorders. Clinicians need to consider both objective and subjective measures to see the whole picture.

After information collection is complete, clinicians can work with patients to consider pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies. One of the most important counseling points for health care workers to share with patients and their caregivers pertains to sleep hygiene with some simple tips and tricks to set patients up for a successful night of sleep.

Below is a chart on specific sleep conditions and their recommended treatment options.

Conclusion

PD is associated with many complications that can severely inhibit patients’ day-to-day lives. Sleep disorders are one of these complications and researchers are taking a closer look at ways to improve care.

Greater acknowledgement of sleep disorders has led to an influx of trials to find the best approach. As more time and effort are spent on this topic, patients will begin to see a more personalized approach to their therapy regimen.

About the Author

Christina Nault is a 2025 PharmD candidate at the University of Connecticut.

Reference

Schütz L, Sixel-Döring F, Hermann W. Management of Sleep Disturbances in Parkinson's Disease [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jul 30]. J Parkinsons Dis. 2022;10.3233/JPD-212749. doi:10.3233/JPD-212749