To Sleep or Not to Sleep, That is the Conundrum
Last updated: August 2022
I am tired, as in weary. I am tired of watching the clock to take medications and know when I can eat without compromising said meds. I am tired of watching the clock to be sure my cardio exercise has reached the recommended time frame. I am tired of watching the clock in the middle of the night when I cannot sleep. I even turned the grandfather clock to silent mode to avoid hearing every quarter hour after midnight taunt me.
I am tired, as in my body is suffering from insufficient rest. I am realizing the effects of poor sleep with each passing year. Have I done anything to help myself address this problem? Why yes, I have.
I know that good sleep hygiene is enhanced by going to sleep and waking up at the same time. Helpful tactics include reducing caffeinated drinks, eliminating screen time when going to bed, and sleeping in a dark, quiet room.1
Between talking to fellow persons with Parkinson’s (PWP) and reading from a variety of reliable sources, I learned some new-to-me tips like avoiding taking naps and reading in bed. I learned that if you have not fallen asleep within 10 minutes then you should get up and try again later.
My major question about some of these tips is, "Are you aware of the effects and side-effects of some of the Parkinson’s meds?!"
I tried melatonin and prescription drugs to help me fall asleep, reach REM sleep, and stay asleep. The sleep-inducing meds and I did not get along so I modified various behaviors.
I drank nothing caffeinated after 6:00 PM. I drank more water. I drank less water. I made sure to exercise most days. I avoided exercise late in the evening. I tried visualization, progressive relaxation, and listened to apps that were supposed to lead me to a calm state in the minutes leading up to bedtime.
I did not turn on the TV. I turned on the TV. I set the TV timer to turn off in 30 minutes, then 60. When I set the timer at 2 hours, I suspected I would still be awake 119 minutes later. I am happy to say that there is a sweet show about puppies and kittens that begins at 5:00 AM in my time zone. When necessary, it helps me begin my day with a smile.
Some personal truths
I often read myself to sleep as I have for decades. I have cats. Cat people understand. For non-cat people, that means they are often near me or on me in bed and try to wake me up when they want something. I know some dogs do that, too.
If the recommendation to get up if you have not fallen asleep in 10 minutes is golden, then my platinum Parkinson’s recommendation is to do something when I find myself wide awake for an hour or more in the middle of the night.
Fortunately (unfortunately?), I get some good work done after 2:30 AM. I might brainstorm the agenda for an upcoming meeting, write an article, draw, or research yet more interesting facets of life with Parkinson’s.
I record as much information as I think helpful in a sleep log. It includes when I sleep, when I wake, when I wake from nightmares, when my husband wakes me because I am talking, or worse, screaming. I look for patterns.
Sometimes I try to look back after a particularly sleepless night to see if events of the previous day or foods I ate might have contributed to lack of sleep. I share the information from my sleep log at doctor appointments. I suspect a sleep lab experience may be in my future.
"To sleep, perchance to dream." I am tired of being tired. I am tired of ineffective efforts to fall asleep and sleep through the night. So, what does one do when weary and tired and previous actions have not been helpful? For now, I continue to alternate expert recommendations and my own tactics to catch some Zs. I still hope for restful sleep with dreams I cannot recall and rejoice when I sleep at all!2
Do you experience issues with spatial awareness?