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REM Sleep Disorder as Early Warning of Neurologic Impairment

Researchers believe a new study suggests a particular sleep disorder may be a sign of dementia or Parkinson’s disease up to 50 years before the disorders are diagnosed.

Scientists used Mayo Clinic records to identify 27 people who experienced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder for at least 15 years before developing one of three conditions: Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy.

Multiple system atrophy is a disorder that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.

People with REM sleep behavior disorder often act out their dreams with violent movements, such as punching, which can injure themselves or bed partners.

The research is published in the July 28, 2010, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study found that the time between the start of the sleep disorder and the symptoms of the neurologic disorders ranged up to 50 years, with an average span of 25 years.

Of the participants, 13 were diagnosed with dementia, 13 others were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and one person was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy.

“Our findings suggest that in some patients, conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies have a very long span of activity within the brain and they also may have a long period of time where other symptoms aren’t apparent,” said study author Bradley F. Boeve, MD, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“More research is needed on this possible link so that scientists may be able to develop therapies that would slow down or stop the progression of these disorders years before the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or dementia appear.”

It is not known how many people who experience REM disorder may develop diseases such as Parkinson’s or dementia.

A corresponding editorial noted there is no evidence that narcolepsy, with or without REM disorder, will later lead to neurodegenerative disorders.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

REM Sleep Disorder as Early Warning of Neurologic Impairment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). REM Sleep Disorder as Early Warning of Neurologic Impairment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/07/29/rem-sleep-disorder-as-early-warning-of-neurologic-impairment/16180.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.