Sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease: what you need to know


Sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease: what you need to know

Are you having difficulty sleeping and worried that it could be a symptom of something serious? Did your doctor mention sleep apnea to you as a potential cause for your poor sleep quality?

It may surprise you, but there is more to consider in this discussion. Research suggests that people with certain types of rem sleep behavior disorder, particularly those linked to sleep apnea, also have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

In this blog post, we will explore the connection between these two conditions - how are they connected, and what can you do if you suspect either one might be affecting your health or well-being?

We hope we can help YOU become better informed about your situation and possible treatment paths by exploring these questions.

What is sleep apnea

Making Up Sleep May Not Help | NIH News in Health | Cognitive impairment  |Nerve cells

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and can happen up to 30 times or more an hour.

This interruption of regular breathing causes the oxygen levels in the blood to drop, leading to daytime fatigue, poor performance at work or school, and even depression. Sleep apnea can sometimes have serious health consequences, including an increased heart attack and stroke risk.

How is sleep apnea related to Parkinson's disease?

People with Parkinson's disease are more likely to develop sleep apnea than those without the condition. One possible explanation for this correlation is that Parkinson's disease is believed to disrupt the body's normal breathing mechanism, causing apnea episodes during sleep. Other factors such as age, gender, and weight may also increase the risk of developing sleep apnea for those with Parkinson's disease.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Common sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, waking up frequently during the night with a feeling of suffocation or gasping, fatigue and daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and headaches upon waking. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, as they may indicate other health issues besides sleep apnea.

How does it relate to Parkinson's disease?

Sleep apnea can directly cause Parkinson's disease, as some people with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for developing the illness. Studies have found that individuals who experience frequent episodes of reduced oxygen levels in their blood during sleep (hypoxia)

– often caused by sleep apnea

– may have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's.

It is believed that the lack of oxygen may lead to brain damage, thus increasing an individual's risk for the illness.

Additionally, research suggests that sleep apnea can worsen existing symptoms of Parkinson's disease and increase an individual's risk of developing complications related to the condition. One study found that individuals with Parkinson's who experience sleep apnea are more likely to see a decline in their quality of life and suffer from depression.

It is also important to note that many symptoms associated with sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease, such as difficulty sleeping, excessive daytime sleepiness, and tremors can make it difficult to tell the two illnesses apart.

  • can make it difficult to tell the two illnesses apart.

Therefore, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must talk to your doctor about being tested for sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease.

Symptoms of sleep apnea and its potential link to Parkinson's disease

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, frequent pauses in breathing, gasping or choking during the night, and excessive daytime exhaustion.

Recent studies have suggested that there may be a link between sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and balance. People with Parkinson's often experience tremors, slowed movements, rigidity in muscles, problems with coordination and balance, and difficulty speaking.

Research suggests that people with sleep apnea may be more likely to develop Parkinson's than those without sleep disorders. However, the exact mechanism connecting the two is still being studied. It is not certain whether sleep apnea directly causes Parkinson's or if it can only increase a person's risk for developing this neurological disorder.

How sleep apnea can aggravate Parkinson's symptoms 

Recent research has linked sleep apnea to exacerbating symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, including issues with balance, fatigue, and daytime drowsiness. A 2011 study found that people with both Parkinson's and sleep apnea experienced a higher level of disability than those suffering from only one or the other of the conditions.

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) is the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing and is much more common in people with Parkinson's disease than those without. OSA sufferers experience episodes during sleeping when their airway becomes blocked, preventing air from reaching the lungs. People with OSA can feel exhausted even after a full night's sleep, which can compound the effects of Parkinson's.

The exact mechanism that connects OSA and Parkinson's is still unknown, but certain theories suggest that both conditions could be linked to a disruption in the autonomic nervous system.

Steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing sleep apnea 

If you are concerned about the potential link between sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Reducing alcohol intake

  • Not smoking

  • Exercising regularly

  • Avoiding certain medications that can cause sleep apnea

  • Reducing stress levels

In addition, it is important to ensure you are getting enough sleep. Ensure you have a regular bedtime routine that allows for at least 7-8 hours of quality rest. Finally, talk to your doctor about any underlying medical conditions contributing to your sleep apnea risk. You can reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea with the right diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea in people with Parkinson's Disease

People with Parkinson's disease are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and other health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It is important to recognize the signs of sleep apnea to properly diagnose and treat it.

Common signs of sleep apnea in people with Parkinson's disease include snoring, difficulty sleeping, excessive daytime sleepiness, and frequent bathroom trips. Other symptoms that may indicate a need to get tested for sleep apnea include morning headaches, irritability or depression, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating or focusing.

If you think that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to consult with your doctor as soon as possible. Treatment options vary depending on the type and severity of your condition but can include lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol or sleeping pills before bed and quitting smoking, as well as more aggressive treatments such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines or surgery.

How lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms of both conditions 

Living with both Parkinson's disease and sleep apnea can be exhausting, but there are lifestyle changes that can help manage the symptoms of both conditions. It is important to speak to your doctor about any medical advice or treatments for either condition and any potential risks you may need to consider.

Getting enough restorative sleep is important for managing symptoms of both conditions, so speaking to your doctor about what kind of sleep plan might work best for you is important. Exercise can also be beneficial;

However, speaking to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine is important. Eating a balanced diet and avoiding alcohol may help reduce Parkinson's disease symptoms and improve sleep quality. Avoiding any triggers affecting sleep and other symptoms associated with both conditions, such as stress or anxiety, is also important.

Managing both Parkinson's disease and sleep apnea requires a multifaceted approach; working with your doctor to determine the best plan for you may provide relief from some of the associated symptoms.

Tips for improving sleep hygiene in people with Parkinson's 

Sleep apnea is a common issue many people with Parkinson's have to cope with. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep hygiene if you're living with Parkinson's:

- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Regularity can help keep your body's internal clock in order.

- Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, if possible.

- Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day as these can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

- Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous activities near bedtime. Stretching or yoga can help relax your body.

- Develop a soothing, pre-bedtime routine to help your body and mind wind down.

- Keep electronic devices away from the bed, as their light can disrupt your production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

- If you struggle to fall asleep, try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation.

By following these tips and seeking medical help if necessary, individuals with Parkinson's can improve their sleep hygiene and reduce the risk of developing sleep apnea.

How lifestyle changes can help manage both disorders

If you suffer from sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease, lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of the disorders. Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles and breathing patterns and maintain a healthy weight.

Avoid drugs or alcohol, which can worsen your motor symptoms. Get plenty of sleep - try to keep a regular sleep schedule and avoid stimulants late in the day. Also, follow a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.

If you have sleep apnea, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the most effective treatment. CPAP delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep, which helps keep your airways open and prevents pauses in sleep breathing disorders. For Parkinson's disease, medications, physical therapy, and alternative treatments such as massage or acupuncture can help manage symptoms.

It is important to remember that everyone's experience with sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease is different. Talk to your doctor if you feel like something isn't working, as they can provide the best advice and care tailored to your needs.


Is there a connection between sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease?

Recent research has suggested a potential association between restful sleep and Parkinson's disease. However, the exact causal relationship between the two conditions is still unclear.

Studies have shown that people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) may be more likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Additionally, the severity of OSA symptoms has been shown to correlate with the severity of Parkinson's disease.

What are some potential treatments for sleep apnea in people with Parkinson's disease?

The most common treatment for sleep apnea in those with Parkinson's disease is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP therapy is a non-invasive method of delivering air pressure through a mask while the patient sleeps, helping to keep their airways open.

Other treatments may include oral appliances, lifestyle modifications, and surgery. Speaking with your healthcare provider about what treatment may be best for you is important.

What does a neurologist have to do with sleep apnea?

A neurologist is a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. Suppose you have been diagnosed with Parkinson's and suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea. In that case, your neurologist can help assess the connection between the two conditions and offer treatment options.

Additionally, if your sleep apnea is caused by a neurological disorder such as Parkinson disease, it may need to be treated differently than other forms of rem sleep disorder. A neurologist can provide you with the best possible care in these cases.

How can I help my Parkinson's patient sleep at night?

You can do several things to help a Parkinson's patient sleep better at night. First, avoid stimulating activities before bedtime. This includes avoiding watching television, using laptops or tablets, and other activities that can keep the patient awake.

Additionally, try to create a calming and soothing environment by dimming the lights, adding relaxing music, and using mobility enhancing garments and sheets. Additionally, it may be beneficial to adjust their sleep schedule if they are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.

What is the best sleep aid for Parkinson's patients?

The best sleep aid for Parkinson's disease patients will depend on the individual. Some people may benefit from over-the-counter medications, such as melatonin or diphenhydramine. Others may require a prescription medication to achieve the desired results.

Additionally, doctors may recommend lifestyle modifications and other therapies, such as CPAP therapy and/ or friction-reducing sheets and sleepwear, to help improve sleep. It is important to speak with your doctor about which option may be best for you.


In conclusion, sleep apnea and Parkinson's disease can be closely linked, making it important to discuss any sleep-related issues with your doctor. While there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea, it is also essential to make general lifestyle changes like reducing stress and exercising regularly to improve sleep hygiene and help manage the sleep-related symptoms of both conditions.

With the right care from your healthcare provider, however, you can work on getting a better quality of sleep that will ultimately improve your overall health and well-being. Ultimately, remember that it is never too late to take proactive steps toward a healthier life, so don't hesitate to reach out for resources and support whenever you need it!

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