Sleep Attacks in Patients With Parkinson's Disease on Dopaminergic Medications: A Systematic Review

Mov Disord Clin Pract. 2014 Sep 1;1(4):307-316. doi: 10.1002/mdc3.12063. eCollection 2014 Dec.


Dopaminergic medications are used as first-line treatment for Parkinson's disease (PD). In 1999, a case series was published describing 9 patients who took dopamine agonists (pramipexole or ropinirole) and experienced sudden irresistible sleep attacks. Sleep attacks have subsequently been reported with other dopaminergic medications, including levodopa. Because these symptoms might not be rare and can affect health-related quality of life, we set out to review the prevalence and clinical characteristics of sleep attacks in patients with PD on dopaminergic medications. We conducted a systematic literature review using the terms parkinson* AND dopamine* AND narcolep* OR sleep attack in multiple databases (PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO). The systematic literature review yielded 23 relevant articles, including nine case reports or case series and 14 original studies. According to the pooled data from the five studies reporting prevalence figures (n = 10,084), sleep attacks occur in 13.0% of patients with PD on dopaminergic medications. Our analysis failed to show significant differences in the Epworth Sleepiness scores between patients with and without sleep attacks (mean difference: 2.92; 95% confidence interval: -0.47-6.31). The I2 value of 76% indicated high heterogeneity among the studies. Sleep attacks are not a rare occurrence in patients with PD on dopamine agonist treatment. We found conflicting results on whether sleep attacks in PD resemble narcolepsy. The pathophysiology of these symptoms might be related to dopamine D2 and D4 receptor gene polymorphisms. The most effective management strategies were dose reduction and discontinuation of the offending drugs.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; dopamine; medication; nonmotor symptoms; sleep attacks.

Publication types

  • Review