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Study IDs Risk Factors for Violent Sleep Disorder

Study IDs Risk Factors for Violent Sleep Disorder

New research identifies specific lifestyle and personal risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep condition called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder.

Canadian investigators found that taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder, or a diagnosis of anxiety, increase risk for the disorder. Researchers also discovered men are more likely to have the condition.

The study is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

REM sleep is commonly recognized as the dream state of sleep. During normal REM sleep, your brain sends signals to prevent your muscles from moving. However, for people with REM sleep behavior disorder, those signals are disrupted.

A person may act out violent or action-filled dreams by yelling, flailing their arms, punching or kicking, to the point of harming themselves or a sleep partner.

“While much is still unknown about REM sleep behavior disorder, it can be caused by medications or it may be an early sign of another neurologic condition like Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy,” said study author Ronald Postuma, M.D., M.Sc., of McGill University in Montreal.

“Identifying lifestyle and personal risk factors linked to this sleep disorder may lead to finding ways to reduce the chances of developing it.”

Investigators assessed 30,097 people with an average age of 63. Researchers screened participants for a variety of health conditions and asked about lifestyle, behavior, social, economic and psychological factors.

In addition, every participant was asked, “Have you ever been told, or suspected yourself, that you seem to act out your dreams while asleep?”

Researchers then identified 958 people, or 3.2 percent, with possible REM sleep behavior disorder, after excluding participants with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or sleep apnea.

Researchers found those with the disorder were over two-and-a-half times as likely to report taking antidepressants to treat depression, with 13 percent of those with the disorder taking them compared to 6 percent of those without the disorder.

People with the disorder were also two-and-a-half times as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They were twice as likely to have mental illness, and over one-and-a-half times as likely to have psychological distress.

Other findings were that men were twice as likely as women to have possible REM sleep behavior disorder; 59 percent of those with the disorder were male, compared to 42 percent of those without the disorder.

People with possible REM sleep behavior disorder were 25 percent more likely than those without the disorder to be moderate to heavy drinkers, with 19 percent of those with the disorder moderate to heavy drinkers compared to 14 percent of those without the disorder.

Investigators discovered individuals with the disorder had slightly less education — an average of 13.2 years of education compared to an average of 13.6 years for those without the disorder. They also had lower income and were more likely to have smoked.

“Our research does not show that these risk factors cause REM sleep behavior disorder, it only shows they are linked,” said Postuma.

“Our hope is that our findings will help guide future research, especially because REM sleep behavior disorder is such a strong sign of future neurodegenerative disease. The more we understand about REM sleep behavior disorder, the better positioned we will be to eventually prevent neurologic conditions like Parkinson’s disease.”

A limitation of the study was that 96 percent of participants were white, meaning the results may not apply to people of other ethnic backgrounds.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Study IDs Risk Factors for Violent Sleep Disorder

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. (2018). Study IDs Risk Factors for Violent Sleep Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/12/28/study-ids-risk-factors-for-violent-sleep-disorder/141509.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Dec 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Dec 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.