Image of frightened eyes.

Nightmare on Parkinson's Street

Freddy Krueger's frightened teens have nothing to compare with my most recent Nightmare on Parkinson's Street! The disfigured "midnight mangler" who visits unsuspecting teens managed to surreptitiously sneak inside my bedroom and crawl next to me in the wee hours of a recent morning.

While a peaceful sleeping household quietly passed the night, a sudden outburst of cursing cracked through the dark. Immediately, I was awakened by yet another one of my husband's Parkinson's disease (PD) induced nightmares.

I struggled to wake him

Instantly he settled from the disturbance playing inside his mind. The house was quiet once again as I settled back to sleep when suddenly screamed a "MUTHA F**@kR!!" and he lurched over only to grab my left arm above the wrist, violently squeeze, and begin to jerk, tug and wrestle me in bed, pulling me under him. As his free hand began to roll into a striking fist, I realized in fear "I'm in trouble!"

About to be tousled beneath a dreaming husband and buried beneath him in our bed for an impending fistfight, I struggled to release my arm and wake him from the attacker he was desperately fighting as his nightmare suddenly became mine too!

When morning finally came, we were both exhausted.

Nightmares and PD

The American Parkinson Disease Association says that sleep problems can include "... very detailed and often frightening visions. Delusions (often paranoid in nature) may occur as well."1

My husband was diagnosed with PD 10 years ago. Together, we talk about the progression of not just the physical symptoms but also the cognitive issues as well. Way back in 2008 when Dan was diagnosed, I was a busy caregiver managing the night time needs of toddler boys and a sleepwalking sister. Now, my nights have transformed to confrontations with imaginary demons, intruders, and this night, a rifle-bearing burglar.

Steps to sleeping better

In an effort to improve the quality of sleep for my husband and me, I found some helpful suggestions from the American Parkinson Disease Association. In case you may also find Freddy Krueger lurking in the corner of your bedroom at night too, here are a few steps to improve sleep without medication:1

  1. Create a routine. Follow regular sleep and wake times and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep.
  2. Ensure your bed is only used as a place for sleeping. Activities like reading or watching TV should be done in other areas.
  3. Limit napping to one 30-minute nap. Longer daytime naps can disrupt sleep during the night.
  4. People with sleep disorders should expose themselves to as much light and physical/mental stimulation during the day as they can. Light helps with the sleep-wake cycle and those with chronic illness often have reduced exposure to bright light.

A coincidence?

Guess what? Just before my husband went to sleep that night, he was watching the 11:00 PM news which reported a shooting at a convenience store in Florida. Coincidence that 2 hours into his dreams, he is being attacked by an intruder with a rifle?  Hmmm ...?

Do you also experience nightmares on Parkinson's Street? Re-read step number 2.

I'm turning off the tv tonight!

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