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Healthy Habits for Living Well

Sleep

We All Need Sleep

Sleep can be a challenge for anyone, but especially for people with HD.  Insomnia, restlessness, and frequent waking are common and disruptive to the person with HD and the person they share their bed with. Lack of sleep may also worsen other HD symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.  

The causes of sleep problems in HD are not entirely known. Many of the reasons the general population has trouble sleeping are just as real for people with HD. You may stay up too late, stay on your screen too long, drink too much coffee or other caffeine heavy drinks. 

Not having enough sleep negatively impacts our lives – we feel cranky, it’s hard to focus, and it can lead to bad decisions.  

What to do if you’re having trouble sleeping 

Talk to your doctor. They may prescribe a drug treatment that helps. If you feel you are depressed, let your doctor know because depression can cause sleep problems and should be treated. You can also ask if your current medications can cause sleep issues. 

The following Sleep Tips are helpful for anyone – whether you have the gene expansion for HD or not.  

Nighttime 

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.

  • Use your bed for sleeping, reading and sex only. No TV, Instagram, or work.

  • Keep your room cool, but not cold.

  • Play music softly.

  • If you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, try reading or eating a light snack. Don’t stare at your clock fretting your lack of sleep.

  • Limit how much you drink in the evening to avoid lots of trips to the bathroom.

  • Keep a clear path to the bathroom and use a nightlight for added safety.

Daytime – What you do during the day affects your sleep as much as what you do at night. 

  • If you usually bring your worries to bed, spend 10 minutes during the evening to write a worry list and a plan of action for the next day.

  • Get up when your alarm goes off 6 to 8 hours later. Don’t ignore or repeatedly snooze your alarm, even if feel tired.

  • Avoid napping during the day.

  • Exercise is highly recommended, but don’t do anything that brings your heartrate up close to your bedtime. Yoga can be a good way to relax at the end of the day.

  • Drink coffee and other caffeine in the morning and early afternoon only.

  • Avoid alcohol if you have HD and especially within a few hours of your bedtime.

  • Eat big meals earlier in the evening and a snack before bed.

  • Avoid nicotine within a couple of hours of bedtime. It’s also good to avoid all 24 hours of the day.

Some nights you may not sleep well, but stick to your bedtime, wakeup time, and avoid naps the next day.  

Got Sleep? The Do’s and Don’ts of Restful Sleep by Dr. Myriam Sollman, PhD, ABPP, Board Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist, HD Reach Affiliate. This article details how sleep is important to everyone. Read more for helpful tips.

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