Could a Little Shut Eye Help Parkinson’s?

Parkinsons patients may experience improved motor functions after sleep

(RxWiki News) One of the great difficulties associated with Parkinson’s disease is muscle control. Shaking in the arms and hands are common symptoms, but a new study shows a natural remedy may help.

New research found that some patients with Parkinson’s disease experience better motor functioning when they wake up after a restful night of sleep.

"Try napping to improve motor functions."

Lead investigator Sebastiaan Overeem, MD, PhD, of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a study to quantify anecdotal reports of the benefits of sleep for Parkinson’s patients.

The researchers found that 47 percent of 243 Parkinson’s patients said they had “a clear decrease in Parkinson’s disease symptoms after a period of sleep,” and that this “sleep benefit” came after a night without medication.

Scientists noted that the benefit might not be limited to nighttime sleep.

A third of the patients who regularly nap said they had improved motor functions after daytime sleep, so napping may be therapeutic as well.

The study was based on patient responses to a questionnaire. Patients evaluated themselves, indicating whether or not they had decreased Parkinson’s symptoms after sleeping.

Because the research was formed around these subjective responses, Dr. Overeem suggested that follow-up studies include objective measures for motor performance and more comprehensive assessment of Parkinson’s symptoms.

"If the subjective experience of sleep benefit is proven to be related to an objective improvement in motor function, this could have considerable clinical benefits," said Dr. Overeem.

Researchers are not certain why about half of the patients reported sleep benefits and half did not.

When comparing the two groups, they found no differences in age at onset, disease duration, type of treatment, depression, quality of life scores, memory, fatigue or apathy.

Scientists also do not know why sleep caused an improvement. One theory suggests that sleep helps functions related to the neural transmitter dopamine.

"Further study is important to identify possible determinants and underlying mechanisms of sleep benefit to identify those patients most likely to benefit from sleep,” said Dr. Overeem.

The research was funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. No conflicts of interest were noted.

This study was published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

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Review Date: 
June 25, 2012
Last Updated:
November 20, 2012