Southeast Houston Sleep Medicine


Alzheimer’s Disease, senile dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and
aging in general are associated with different types of sleeping


With advanced age, people have difficulty maintaining sleep for a full eight hours. They frequently wake up in the middle of the night due to medical ailments such as prostate disease, musculoskeletal problems and diabetes. In addition, experts believe aging alone can disrupt the continuity of sleep, even if there are no other medical problems are present.

Waking up frequently during the night causes daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Older patients often nap in the afternoons or feel fatigued during the day. The sleepiness tends to be worse after eating or when individuals are idle.


Patients with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease sometimes experience disruption of the normal paralysis associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Rapid eye movement sleep is the period of sleep in which people dream. During REM sleep, the eyes move back and forth rapidly and the skeletal muscles are paralyzed, preventing individuals from getting up and acting out their dreams. Degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disrupt this natural process, and can cause patients to move excessively during sleep.

Rapid eye movement disorders do not cause brain damage, but the risk of a fall or injury is substantial. Patients with these disorders should sleep in a bed with soft pillows, railings and no sharp objects in the bedroom. They should avoid elevated beds because of the risk of falling. Although no specific drug therapy is mandatory, physicians can use low doses of clonazepam to try and improve problems related to REM associated movement disorders.


Restless legs syndrome is the abnormal movement of the legs during sleep. This disrupts sleep and wakes the patient up at night. Patients with restless legs syndrome often experience discomfort in their lower extremities and an uncontrollable urge to move their legs during the day.

Parkinson’s Disease, nerve damage from diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease increase the incidence of restless legs syndrome. Antidepressants in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor category such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Celexa make restless legs syndrome worse as well. Physicians commonly use these medications in older patients to treat depression that occurs with chronic illness.