Sleep and mental health

Sleep can affect your mental health if you have Parkinson's so it's important to know which issues you might experience and how you can manage them.

Mental health issues linked to sleep

Panic attacks

A panic attack is an overwhelming feeling of fear or terror that comes out of the blue. You may also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, a racing heart and shortness of breath.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Anxiety may be caused by excessive worry or stress. But it is also a symptom of Parkinson’s.

Anxiety and panic attacks can cause sleep disruption, so if you’re affected by these, speak to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse, as there are a number of ways that anxiety may be treated.

Depression

Depression is usually diagnosed when someone has feelings of extreme sadness for a long period of time.

Symptoms may include insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as too much sleep. Sleep and night-time problems can be more common in people with Parkinson’s who also have depression.

There are also a number of ways to treat depression. Speak to your health professional for advice.

Parasomnias

Parasomnias are abnormal movements or behaviours that happen when you are asleep. They also occur as you are waking up or when light sleep changes to deep sleep. They include nightmares and sleepwalking.

One problem is called ‘rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder’. During REM sleep (commonly thought of as dream sleep) people with the disorder may move their arms and legs vigorously, possibly injuring themselves or bed-partners. They may also call out or scream in their sleep. This happens because people may be acting out a violent dream, which they may or may not be able to remember.

REM sleep behaviour disorder is more common in people with Parkinson’s and can be an early sign of Parkinson’s before other symptoms develop.

Some people may also have hallucinations, wander, get agitated or talk loudly during sleep.

Night-time hallucinations can be a side effect of medication taken at night, or be due to other causes, such as an infection.

If you or your bed partner notice any unusual behaviour during sleep, you should discuss this with your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse. In some cases you may be referred to a neurologist with a special interest in sleep disorders.

Apps to help you clear your mind and sleep well

Pzizz is an app that helps you to have better quality sleep.

It plays a mix of music and sound effects that quieten your mind to send you to sleep and keep you asleep, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed.

Download PDF or order a printed copy 

Sleep and night-time problems in Parkinson's (PDF, 641KB)

We know lots of people would rather have something in their hands to read rather than look at a screen, so you can order printed copies of our information by post, phone or email.