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Sleep Disorder Linked to Dementia, Parkinson’s

January 5, 2009

An unusual sleep disorder could be a precursor to dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Patients with REM sleep behavior disorder have excessive muscle activity during REM sleep — often called the dream stage of sleep — causing them to punch, kick or cry out when they are in a deep sleep.

Of the 93 REM sleep behavior patients involved in the study, 26 developed a neurodegenerative disease within five years. Doctors estimate the 10-year disease development risk to be 41 percent and the 12-year risk to be 52 percent.

“The results may help us better understand how these neurodegenerative diseases develop,” study author Ronald B. Postuma, M.D., a sleep specialist from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, was quoted as saying. “They also suggest that there may be an opportunity for protecting against the progression to disease, perhaps even preventing it before the symptoms can appear.”

The patients involved in this study had no known cause of REM sleep behavior disorder. In some cases, the condition can be caused by narcolepsy or rare brainstem abnormalities.

SOURCE: Neurology, published online Dec. 24, 2008

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