Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating, degenerative disease which affects the nervous system, and gradually causes loss of cells in areas that control motor function.
Parkinson’s disease displays many symptoms from diagnosis, and may include slow deliberate movements, inability to properly stand or balance, shaking of the extremities (initially the hands), possibly depression, insomnia and problems with memory. The disease is long term and will not get better, but the actual rate at which symptoms progress varies among individuals. As such, treatment and lifestyle changes are geared at allowing the patient to function best during that specific period, and enjoy life to the fullest.
In many cases, Parkinson’s disease results from an unknown trigger, or cascade of events; known as being of idiopathic origin. However, other cases have been reportedly linked to having genetic ties, since as much as 25% of newly diagnosed patients had a close relative with the disease, changes in environment, or multiple incidents of traumatic head injuries.
Sleep has been shown to have the greatest impact on an aspect of memory known as “working memory”, which is that memory in dynamic use for short term recollection and to help in immediate analysis of factors. Working memory has a role in decision making, helping to plan, and is responsible for the independence some persons feel.
The results of the study undertaken highlighted something that up to recently was unknown; the effect of sleep on working memory. The improvement noted from sleep was attributed to the amount of deep slow wave sleep attained. Deep slow wave sleep is believed to be the most restorative phase of sleep, during which synapses may bridge and make new connections to replace damaged ones.
The results of the study are promising, suggesting that patients at least with early stage Parkinson’s disease can regain a degree of memory and recollection, once the necessary stimulus is there( in this case deep sleep). Persons in the study affected by sleep apnea did not gain the beneficial effects, since the obstruction in breathing seemed to negate the effect on memory.
The method of evaluation in the study was something referred to as a digit span test, a procedure in which the participants were to memorize the pattern of appearance of numbers, and recite them in similar fashion and in reverse. These tests were performed eight times during a 48 hour period, and kept getting more challenging at each level. The aim of the test was to evaluate their short term memory capability( by reciting the numbers) and their working memory( by saying them backwards) since the procedure was not just a clear cut experiment of remembering numbers, but being able to put that memory to ” work”.
A total of 64 participants were involved, with 54 having strictly Parkinson`s disease and 10 having dementia. The study also revealed that those suffering from dementia showed no such improvement.
Another important variable that has to be considered, however, is the role of dopamine agonistic drugs in the study, as the beneficial effects were seen predominantly in this group. Persons with newly diagnosed Parkinson`s disease and currently not on dopaminergic drugs did not see such improvements. As such, the results need to be taken with a pinch of salt, since in the absence of even one controlled factor, the improvement to memory is not seen.
However ,one take home point is true regardless of the considered points; getting a good night’s sleep will in no way harm your health, and may be the only thing standing between accelerated worsening of the condition and enjoying your quality of life to the end.
Category: Sleep Disorders