People with symptoms suggesting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, have twice the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Parkinson’s disease within 4 years of diagnosis with the sleep problem, compared with people without the disorder, a Mayo Clinic study has found. The researchers published their findings recently in the Annals of Neurology.
One of the hallmarks of REM sleep is a state of paralysis. In contrast, people with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder appear to act out their dreams when they are in REM sleep. Researchers used the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire to diagnose probable RBD in people who were otherwise neurologically normal. Approximately 34% of people diagnosed with probable RBD developed MCI or Parkinson’s disease within 4 years of entering the study, a rate 2.2 times greater than those with normal rapid eye movement sleep.
"Understanding that certain patients are at greater risk for MCI or Parkinson’s disease will allow for early intervention, which is vital in the case of such disorders that destroy brain cells. Although we are still searching for effective treatments, our best chance of success is to identify and treat these disorders early, before cell death," says co-author Brad Boeve, MD, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.