Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-16 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
For years now, I have been getting by on an average of only three to four hours of sleep per night. No one knows how I keep it up, especially not me. I try to go to bed about midnight, but after laying there for awhile, unable to stop the thoughts racing through my mind, I get up and find a distraction for myself.
Many of us who live with Parkinson’s disease have trouble sleeping through the night, negatively impacting our health, our mood, our quality of life, and ultimately our life expectancy. “Getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as exercise and nutrition,” sleep experts say. Sleeping less than five hours per night has been shown to increase mortality risk across the board by as much as 15 percent. It also contributes to embarrassing and dangerous “sleep attacks” while on the phone, swimming laps, and playing bridge. After more than a decade of this, I was ready to do almost anything to normalize my sleep
A friend found relief in chocolate squares infused with marijuana, but this is hard to come by in my home state. I opted instead for melatonin, a hormone that manages our sleep and wake cycles to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. As we age, our melatonin levels begin to drop, until they get so low, we find ourselves needing to supplement them. If a little melatonin is good, a lot must be better, I thought, as I reached for the “advanced, maximum strength” melatonin that promises to help me “fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.” Fortunately, I always check with my doctor before trying a new medicine or supplement. The 10 mg tablet contained more than triple the recommended starting dose of melatonin, and could desensitize the melatonin receptors and lose effectiveness.
I take my melatonin an hour before bedtime and am out like a light within minutes of my head hitting the pillow — no tossing and turning, and no obsessive thoughts. I usually awaken once to use the bathroom, and go right back to sleep, unless I revert to my old ways (like I did tonight) and fight sleepiness so I could stay awake to write this blog post.
How ironic is that?
It has only been a week since I started taking a melatonin supplement, but it seems to be working for me. I am sleeping longer and more deeply, and I’m dreaming again, promoting memory consolidation, conflict resolution, and mood regulation. No longer sleepless in Chicago, I wake up refreshed, feeling good, and ready to be productive.