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My Research Journey: From Falling Out of Bed to Participating in a Parkinson’s Study

Otis and Linda Peeples

Otis Peeples and his wife, Linda

“I’ve hurt myself falling out of bed, while still asleep, and that is what scared my wife,” says Otis Peeples, 71, a behavioral health therapist and retired police sergeant living in Chicago, Illinois. After having these sleep issues for some time, his wife, Linda, encouraged Otis to see a doctor to understand what was going on. A sleep study confirmed he had REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

With RBD, people act out dreams while asleep. They may kick, yell, punch or fall out of bed.

“Sometimes I would find him sitting up and he'd be driving a car,” says Linda. “Or he would be enacting a scene where he’s fighting someone.”

RBD is a risk factor for Parkinson’s and other brain diseases. (Not everyone with RBD develops Parkinson’s disease. But in some, RBD is one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s.)

When Otis learned about the connection between RBD and Parkinson’s, his curiosity triggered him to take action. He joined the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s landmark research study. Participating in the study offered a unique opportunity to help him learn more about his own risk for Parkinson’s disease.

PPMI collects information from participants with and without Parkinson’s over time. Otis has been completing tests and sharing biological samples (e.g., blood, saliva) at Northwestern University twice a year for the past 10 years. That data could increase understanding of Parkinson’s risk and what factors may lead to or protect someone from the disease.

“If I could help find a solution, it would make me feel good,” says Otis. “Maybe that will be my purpose: to help find a cure for this disease.”

Otis follows a regimen that helps him manage life with RBD. He takes melatonin, avoids eating too late at night and manages stress as much as possible. (See what other strategies people use to manage sleep issues.)

Read more about Otis and his journey with RBD on pages 23-24 in Chicago Health Magazine.

PPMI is recruiting people over age 60 who act out dreams while asleep. If you kick, punch or yell while dreaming, and do not have Parkinson's, please call the PPMI team at 877-525-PPMI or email to get started. Join the study that could change everything.

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