Posted by: PD Warrior | October 7, 2007

Things that go bump in the night

My arms and my legs, just to name a few… PD’s personal contribution to my occasional bouts of sleep deprivation.

I can’t remember the last time that I slept for more than 6 hours at one time in the last 7 or 8 years, other than times when I was sick, and they don’t count. I have obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.

At the request of my wife, I participated in a “sleep study” at my local hospital’s sleep lab, mostly due to my horrendous snoring. I avoided the study for a long time. I always knew I was a snorer, and attributed it to something I inherited from my father. I figured, if my mother, my sisters and I could get used to the window shaking racket he made, then my wife would be able to get used to what ever piddly little noise I was making.

Then came the apnea – the cessation of breathing – another annoying habit I seemed to have acquired somewhere along the way. As it turned out, when I wasn’t snoring, I wasn’t breathing; something which my wife found to be even more disconcerting than the snoring, causing her to lose even more sleep as she stayed awake listening to make sure I didn’t stop breathing altogether.

Eventually I broke down and went to the sleep lab. At the end of the test the technician came in to unhook me from all the wires, electrodes and probes. While he was doing that, he looked at me and said, “you really do snore, man…”

“I know, that’s why I’m here.”

He smiled and shook his head. “No, man…I mean, you really, really snore bad!”

No kidding, really? Why do you think I’m here? I scowled at him. “That’s what my wife tells me.”

“She was being nice. My wife would have smothered you with the pillow half way through the night. I have worked in this lab for 6 years, and never heard anyone snore like that.”

I frowned without saying anything.

Once he finished taking all of the wires off of me, he came in with a post test questionnaire – standard procedure to enable them to interpret my results correctly. Questions like “how long did it take you to fall asleep?” and “do you remember waking up? How many times did you wake up?” etc. etc.

The final question was “do you remember any time that it felt like you weren’t breathing, or not getting enough air”

“Once or twice…”

He shook his head. “More.”

“I don’t know,” I said, puzzled. “Seven or eight?”

“Try 738 – another record.”


He showed me the unofficial printout. I had stopped breathing 738 times. My oxygen level during these times dropped down to 72% (normal is 92% or above.) If it had dropped any lower, he would have had to cancel the testing and I would have been admitted to the hospital.

One week later I was fitted for a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) Now, when I finally do fall asleep, I sleep like a baby, and I actually feel refreshed when I wake up.

So, what does this have to do with Parkinson’s Disease?

Absolutely nothing. Or so I thought until I received my copy of the Young Parkinson’s Newsletter a couple of days ago, a publication that is produced by the American Parkinson’s Disease Association’s Young Parkinson’s division. The main article in this issue is entitled “Parkinson’s And The Night” by Johan Samanta, MD.

Apparently my sleeping issues, that I always attributed to a random luck-of-the-draw type thing, something that could only happen to me, are in reality a product of my good friend and constant companion PD.

The following is an excerpt from “Parkinson’s and the Night.”

“Ask a group of people with PD how many hours of sleep they get per night and you may be in for a surprise. One study found that persons with PD averaged just over 5 hours of sleep per night, and woke up twice as many times as adults of similar age without PD. Reasons for decreased sleep are varied but include sleep apnea, difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), frequent awakening (sleep fragmentation), nighttime urinary frequency, vivid dreams/nightmares often accompanied by physical action (REM behavioral disorder), nighttime confusion and even hallucinations and delusions.

Okay, so here is the list:

  1. Sleep Apnea……….yep, got it
  2. Difficulty falling asleep…….hmmm, let’s see – usual routine: go to sleep 2-3 hours after everyone else in the house because I am wide awake and my mind is spinning in multiple different directions – yep, got it.
  3. frequent awakening…….does getting up 2-3 times a night to pee count? Yep, got it.
  4. nighttime urinary frequency…..did I mention how many times I have to pee every night? Yep, got it.
  5. vivid dreams/nightmares accompanied by physical action…..I don’t know if I can count this one; My dreams have always been very vivid, often freaky and sometimes downright scary
  6. nighttime confusion………no worse than the daytime confusion
  7. Hallucinations and delusions………only those of grandeur. Seriously though, I haven’t had any hallucinations or delusion, despite anything my children may have said about me. 😎

I have four out of the 7 symptoms, with the possibility of #5 being added to the list. I have always had vivid dreams, and occasionally thrashed about in my sleep, but sometimes I have to wonder if the dreams aren’t becoming a little more bizarre. I have noticed a change in them over the last couple of years, but chalked it up to the mirapex I am taking for my PD. Vivid dreams is one of the most common side effects of the drug.

The article goes on to describe each of the symptoms listed above, along with suggestions as to how they can be treated. The article can be viewed for free by clicking the link provided above and following the instructions, or you can sign up to receive it in the mail – also for free- by clicking the the Young Parkinson’s link above and following the directions provided to be added to the mailing list.



  1. […] PD Warrior wrote a fantastic post today on Things that go bump in the nightHere’s a quick extractReasons for decreased sleep are varied but include sleep apnea, difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), frequent awakening (sleep fragmentation), nighttime urinary frequency, vivid dreams/nightmares often accompanied by physical action … […]


  2. You know when you read this symptom stuff you start to think . . . I am thinking about my husband who had/has the sleep issues–he had his tonsils out and that help some. He tried the CPAP and couldn’t cut it. But what caught my attention was #5. Husband has vivid dreams and they are accompanied by physical action. I don’t know if they are night terrors or what but he’ll think I’m in harm’s way and try to rescue me. This means I have to swat his “help” away until he realizes it’s not real.


  3. […] Warrior” is another blogger who wrote about his sleep lab experience. In a post called “things that go bump in the night” PD Warrior recalls the events of the night. As happens so many times with male OSA […]


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