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To Sleep, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Ivan M. Suzman

Only a minority of people with Parkinson's (PWP's) achieve refreshing, regular sleep patterns. Dr Cynthia Comella, M.D., a sleep specialist and Parkinson's expert at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago (a leading center supported by the Parkinson's Disease Foundation) estimates that as many as 70 percent of PWP's are vulnerable to episodes of sleep displacement and fragmentation.

Here are a few ideas that PWP's may consider to improve sleep quality.

Bed Linens Can Improve Mobility

Mrs. Bill L.W. Bird of Marcus, Iowa, recommends using a fitted satin bottom sheet, so that her husband can "slide around and turn over" more easily. Mrs. Bird located good sheets in the J.C. Penny mail-order catalogue at $39.00 for a set of two sheets and two pillow cases. I found some at, which cost just $24.95 for two sheets and $4.95 for two pillowcases. Mr. Nigel Harland of the United Kingdom adds that wearing satin boxer shorts can also increase bed mobility, especially rolling-over.

Mrs. Virginia Wilson of South Carolina states that her husband can see the edges of unmatched sheets or pillow cases better than matched ones and thus grasp them more quickly when he needs to shift them around. Her card ends, "forget matching and go complementary!"

I enjoy adding an electric blanket to the top covers, which I limit to the sheet, the single blanket and a thinner, summer-weight spread. Toes are less likely to curl up, and sleep will come sooner, in a bed that has warm, easily movable top covers.

Preparing Yourself for Sleep

Meditation or bedside prayers help many people to prepare and soothe the spirit for sleep. You may also benefit from soaking in a warm bath, especially if you experience toe curls or calf-muscle cramps. Treat yourself by including your favorite bath salts (avoiding oil-based products that can make the bathtub slippery).

Naturally-decaffeinated teas that tend to relax the stomach may help you feel sleepy. A brand I personally enjoy is "Sleepytime" from Celestial Seasonings Herb Tea. A box of twenty teabags costs $2.79 at my local supermarket or $5.98 for two boxes online at

Create a Cozy Environment

In recent years, there has been a huge growth in the availability of pre-recorded music for relaxation. lists hundreds of CDs that offer peaceful sounds, from the tranquil pinging of the harp to the gentle patter of rainfall. Three different models of "Sound Soothers" table-top speakers, pre-programmed with 20 different sounds - are available from "The Sharper Image" ( or (800) 344 - 4444, prices start at $69.95), bringing into your bedroom the serenity of the oceanside or a summer night.

Keeping an oft-read book next to your bed to help you drift back to sleep after a mid-night awakening is preferable to switching on the television which can be too stimulating.

Easily found at your local hardware store, a soft, ivory or light yellow night light, placed just outside the door of the bedroom, can illuminate the way to the nearest bathroom, while not being invasive. It's especially helpful if you experience visual illusions with too much darkness.

Timing Your Medications

Timing your medications to avoid nighttime 'wearing-off' is important because muscle rigidity is one of the symptoms of PD that can interfere with a good night's sleep. I suggest that each PWP work out the best possible dose times to avoid losing sleep. This becomes even more important as the disease progresses. Your neurologist and your caregivers can be of enormous help in monitoring your response to dosages and schedules.

One commonly prescribed medication has long been known to cause insomnia. For this reason, my neurologist advises that Eldepryl (selegiline) should be taken no later than noon, in most cases. Its half-life of 17 hours leaves some active medication in the system, which will continue to be converted - even beyond midnight - into a methamphetamine-like product. This process can disrupt sleep.

Snorers have special needs

Aggravated, loud nasal breathing can foil the most ardent attempts to sleeping quietly and comfortably. One possible remedy is to raise the upper body on pillows, or on a foam wedge, available from medical supply catalogues. There are three different heights for foam slants and they cost from $24.95 to $42.95 (see

Betty Copeland of Manhattan reports great success with nasal strips that dilate the nostrils and improve inhalation. She recommends the plain, cloth-like, tan strips that are available from BreatheRight, Inc. These can be found easily at most good drug stores. Or try where they cost $5.49 for a dozen.

Star Tip's from Readers

Next issue, we'll be reviewing useful suggestions for grooming and personal hygiene. Please write to us with your suggestions c/o PDF or to The best "Tip's" will be printed in the next issue and one lucky reader will receive the "Star-Tip" prize of a "Six-Alarm Vibration or Sound Medication Reminder Watch" worth $99.95, generously donated by e-pill, LLC.