Exercise as treatment

The effects of different exercise modalities on sleep quality and architecture in people with Parkinson’s disease

Mr. Jacopo Cristini
McGill University
Graduate Student Award
Funded in Partnership with Québec Parkinson Network
$20,000 over 2 years

Sleep issues such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness are common among people living with Parkinson’s.

Besides sleep disturbances, which can take a significant toll on quality of life, people with Parkinson’s also experience disruptions in their sleep architecture, the stages and cycles of sleep that normally occur throughout the night. Researchers believe disrupted sleep architecture may be associated with a faster motor and cognitive decline in people with Parkinson’s.

At McGill University’s Memory Lab, Jacopo Cristini, a PhD candidate, investigates whether different types of exercise can improve sleep and thereby alleviate the progression of motor symptoms and the cognitive decline that may accompany Parkinson’s.

“Sleep is essential to maintain motor and cognitive health in people with Parkinson’s,” Cristini says.

Cristini, whose specialty is exercise and physical activity, wants to see if either cardiovascular exercise or resistance training, or a combination of both types of exercise, improves the sleep of people with Parkinson’s.

“There is growing evidence showing that an alteration of sleep architecture is associated with faster motor and cognitive decline,” Cristini says.

He will divide participants into three groups of 20. Each group will spend 12 weeks engaging in different types of exercise. They’ll answer questionnaires and be monitored in a sleep lab before and after they begin the exercise courses, to see if their sleep improves.

At the end of the study, Cristini will also assess improvements in participants’ fitness levels, and help them plan ways to exercise at home to maintain, or even improve, their physical activity and health.

If Cristini’s research demonstrates the positive effects of exercise on sleep, it will be important for people to keep training after their participation in the study ends.

Cristini hopes his work will strengthen research supporting exercise as an important addition to other forms of treatment for Parkinson’s.

How your support made this research project possible

As an international student studying in Canada from Italy, receiving this award from Parkinson Canada was "very important," says Cristini.

He hopes the award will also help his lab attract additional students.

He encourages donors to fund research like his which will provide study participants with feedback, alternatives, and guidance about how best to continue the improvements he believes exercise will bring to their lives after the study has ended.

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