Parkinson’s Patients: Sleep Problems & Treatment

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Those who are familiar with Parkinson’s, may know that often Parkinson’s and sleep problems go hand-in-hand. Affecting around 1 in 500 people, Parkinson’s is an incurable but treatable disease. While the motor symptoms get worse as the condition progresses, the disease is not life threatening and most people with Parkinson’s Disease are now able to live a normal or near-normal life.

What many don’t know is that medicinal cannabis and CBD may be able to help treat some of the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, sleep problems and fatigue. If you or someone you love is struggling with Parkinson’s and related sleep issues, our experienced doctors can help. Book a consultation and discuss if medicinal cannabis is right for your journey.  

What is Parkinson’s Disease and what are the symptoms?

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder which is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This loss of nerve cells leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine, which plays a significant role in regulating body movements. This reduction in dopamine level causes movements to become abnormal, producing tremors (involuntary shaking of parts of the body), bradykinesia (slow movements), and stiff muscles. These are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

However, Parkinson’s disease can also cause a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Balance and coordination problems (increasing the chance of a fall)
  • Loss of smell (anosmia)
  • Sleeping problems
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue

How does Parkinson’s Disease cause sleep problems?

It is estimated that 2 out of 3 people with Parkinson’s disease experience sleep problems. Although the full extent of Parkinson’s sleep problems is yet to be uncovered, there are several causes that experts believe may be the contributing factors.

  1. Chemical changes in the brain: Chemical changes caused by Parkinson’s disease disrupt the sleep-wake cycle resulting in a less restful sleep.
  2. Medication: Some drugs can make it harder for Parkinson’s disease patients to fall or stay asleep.
  3. Parkinson’s symptoms: While physical symptoms such as pain can make restful sleep harder to come by for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, mental health issues associated with Parkinson’s such as anxiety or depression may also be the reasons that keep them up at night.

Just as Parkinson’s disease affects every person differently, Parkinson’s sleep problems can manifest itself in ways other than insomnia. Nocturia (waking often at night to use the bathroom), sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, fragmented sleep, vivid dreams, and nightmares are also common sleep disorders that affect those with Parkinson’s disease. Although there is no direct research on Parkinson’s disease and fatigue, it’s unsurprising that these sleep problems would make people with Parkinson’s disease feeling drained and lethargic during the day.

Can CBD be used as a treatment of sleep problems in Parkinson’s Disease?

We’ve already told you about how CBD oil may help you sleep better, and yes, medicinal cannabis can absolutely be trialed as a treatment for sleep problems caused by Parkinson’s disease. CBD’s interaction with the body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is known to ease many of the root causes of insomnia. 

Research on the use of medicinal cannabis as a primary treatment of Parkinson’s Disease is varied and inconclusive. However, there are promising results when it comes to supplementary uses especially on alleviating non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like sleep problems, which are often undiagnosed and undertreated. A clinical trial of 2000 patients revealed improvements in subjective sleep parameters following CBD treatment, demonstrating the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis on sleep problems – quite promising! 

Can you take melatonin with CBD?

Melatonin is another supplement widely marketed as a natural remedy to sleep problems. This begs the question, ‘can you take melatonin with CBD to deal with sleeping problems?’ 

Dubbed as a natural ‘sleep hormone’ which is produced inside all of us, melatonin has more to do with the timing of when we fall asleep, rather than keeping us asleep throughout the night. Ideally, a big burst of melatonin should kick in 2-3 hours after sunset, making us feel sleepy. However, light exposure after sunset from various digital sources of modern life means that the natural melatonin release gets pushed back, making us miss nature’s cue to go to sleep. Taking a supplement 2-3 hours before bed may assist in keeping your day-night cycle (circadian rhythm) consistent. 

It is too early to say whether melatonin can work synergistically with CBD as the research is just emerging. Some people use melatonin to support sleep onset, and CBD to help sleep through the night. However, it’s recommended that melatonin should be used for short-term sleep ‘resets’, after which it can be used sporadically and as needed rather than constantly and long-term. Remember, melatonin is naturally produced by our body and too much dependency on supplements can make the body think that it doesn’t need to pump as much melatonin as it should normally. 

 

Medical cannabis can be used as a treatment of sleep problems, even for those with Parkinson’s disease. While there is no direct connection between Parkinson’s disease and fatigue, dealing with Parkinson’s sleep problems is likely going to deal with the fatigue symptoms, too.

cannabis drip

Do you suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and having problems with sleep, appetite, mental health issues, pain, or inflammations?

Talk to our friendly team at Cannabis Clinic to see if medicinal cannabis may help.  

Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider. 

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