I didn’t sleep well last night and I noticed my balance is worse than normal today, is that my Parkinson’s or is it because I didn’t sleep well?
Sven M., Age 64. Sweden.
Thanks for your question. The answer is that both Parkinson’s and aging can affect balance.
I have had the good fortune of attending many appointments with my clients during the visit to their neurologist. Sleep hygiene, or quality of sleep is typically one of the first questions a doctor will ask their patient.
If the patient is not sleeping well, this can be seen as a contributing cause of the symptoms related to the Parkinson’s diagnosis. The Parkinson’s Disease and Research Center, at the University of California, San Francisco, reports:
In general, research seems to indicate that people with Parkinson’s disease have more sleep disruptions than similarly aged people without the disease. The most commonly reported sleep-related problems are the inability to sleep through the night and difficulty returning to sleep after awakening, generally referred to as maintenance insomnia. Unlike many older adults, patients with Parkinson’s disease often find that they have no trouble initiating sleep, but often wake up within a few hours and find sleeping through the rest of the night to be difficult.
Rather than prescribing more medicine, which can have side effects and can create other complications, often times managing the individuals quality of sleep is the best way to improve recently occurring symptomatic issues.
“One study found daytime sleepiness in 76% of Parkinson’s patients. These sleep-related symptoms can have a major impact on quality of life for Parkinson’s patients and treatment for these problems should be integrated with their therapeutic regimens.”
The good news is if you’re struggling to sleep well and experiencing some new developments with your Parkinson’s, you don’t need to wait for an appointment with your neurologist to see if getting better sleep will help.
Recently, client of mine returned from a two-week hiatus. When he walked in I noticed a pronounced degradation of his posture. He confided with me he had noticed that his posture had become poor and also conceded that his balance seemed off. He was obviously concerned because the change had seems to have happened so quickly.
After a brief conversation it become clear that because of some logistical issues that were going on in his life, he had not slept well for the past two weeks. I reassured him that this was likely the cause of the balance and posture problems he was experiencing, and I encouraged him to commit to getting better rest.
After one week of getting better rest, his posture and balance return to his normal baseline.
Sleep deficit symptoms
Good sleep hygiene is incredibly important and can affect both motor and motor symptoms. Here’s a short list of issues that can be affected by a sleep deficit.
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Sexual problems
- Fluctuations in blood pressure (specifically orthostatic hypotension)
- Functional coordination
- Fine motor skill
All of the above can be severely impacted by lack of sleep, so if you notice a sudden change in any of the above, of course contact your neurologist, but in addition, make your sleep quality/pattern one of the first things you consider.