Sleep disturbances have been also observed in Alzheimer's disease (AD), affecting about 45% of its population. Moreover, when it is based on caregiver reports this percentage is even higher, about 70%. As well as in PD population, insomnia and hypersomnia are frequently recognized in AD patients, which have been associated with accumulation of Beta-amyloid, circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSD) and melatonin alteration. Additionally, changes in sleep architecture are observed in AD too. Even though with ageing the sleep architecture seems to change naturally, in AD patients it is aggravated. SWS is potentially decreased (sometimes totally absent), spindles and the time spent in REM sleep are also reduced, while its latency is increased. The poorly sleep onset in AD has been also associated with dream-related hallucination, increased restlessness, wandering and agitation, that seem to be related with sundowning - a typical chronological phenomenon presented in the disease.
Although we do not know the causual relationship, we know that the more the AD progresses, the more we find sleep disorders. In the same way, the more sleep disorders there are, the more the disease progresses, forming a vicious circle. Taken this into account, sleep disturbances are no longer a symptom of AD and relationship between sleep disturbances and AD is bidirectional.
Neurodegenerative diseases have been often associated with sleep disorders, mainly when they are characterized by abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein, such as multiple system atrophy (MSA), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Lewy body disease (LBD). For instance, people diagnosed with PD have often presented different kinds of sleep concerns, commonly regard to insomnia (around 70% of the PD population), hypersomnia (more than 50% of the PD population), and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) - that may affect around 40% of the PD population and it is associated with increased motor symptoms. Importantly, RBD has been also highlighted as a strong precursor of developing dementia in PD patients over several years in prior, which seems to be a great opportunity for improving the treatments of the disease.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is an overwhelming need to move the legs. This urge is sometimes accompanied by a tingling sensation in the legs. While these symptoms can occur during the day, they are most prevalent at night. RLS is often associated with certain health conditions, including ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, but the exact cause isn’t always known.
With over 80 listed sleep disorders, and more that are being researched, it's important for patients suffering from the various types of sleep disorders to seek medical treatment. If you believe that your sleep problems may be caused by a disorder, there are many things you can do to solve your sleep issues from DIY tips and tricks such as practicing better sleep hygiene, to contacting a sleep clinic to schedule an inlab sleep study, or an at home sleep test for certain pre-screened disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.
The effects of sleep disorders can be so disruptive that you will likely want immediate relief. Unfortunately, long-term cases can take a bit more time to resolve. However, if you stick with your treatment plan and regularly communicate with your doctor, you can eventually find your way to better sleep. You may also want to visit the National Sleep Foundation website for additional resources to share with your doctor.
What to do: If you suspect you have a circadian rhythm disorder, take steps to get your body onto a regular sleep schedule. Choose a bedtime and wake-up time that work for you, and follow the same routine each day, even on weekends. This can be tough for those who have to get up early during the week but like to stay up later on weekends, but do your best to craft a compromise between your work week and weekend habits. The important thing is to avoid the trap of sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week, then suddenly shifting to late nights and late mornings on the weekends. This will inevitably leave you with insomnia on Sunday night, which in turn sets you up to start the week exhausted on Monday morning.