Sleep Disorder Linked to Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons disease may be revealed by diagnosis of certain sleep disorders

(RxWiki News) Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) occurs when people act out dreams. Diagnosis of RBD may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s or mild cognitive impairment.

Researchers found that when people were diagnosed with RBD, they were two times as likely to be diagnosed with either Parkinson’s or mild cognitive impairment within the next four years.  This finding could be a tool for doctors in the diagnosis of these disorders.

"Don’t ignore sleep disturbances, they could be a warning sign"

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic claim that RBD diagnosis could serve as a tool for early detection of Parkinson’s Disease and mild cognitive impairment. The team, led by Brenden P. Boot, M.D., found that the increased risk of degenerative disease was true for people without any other neurological problems but who had symptoms of RBD.

During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the body is normally paralyzed to keep people from acting out dreams. People with RBD do not have this paralysis, and they will have physical movements during this phase of sleep.  The Mayo Clinic study showed that people with RBD were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease or mild cognitive impairment within four years of the onset of the sleep disorder compared to people with normal REM sleep.

Parkinson's Disease is characterized by muscular symptoms, like tremors and weakness. Mild cognitive impairment is loss of memory and thinking ability that is more than normal for aging but less severe than dementia.

Both Parkinson’s disease and mild cognitive impairment are degenerative diseases with no known cure. Early detection can improve treatment and long-term outlooks for patients with these disorders.  This latest study may give doctors another tool for early detection of patients at-risk for developing these disorders.

Dr. Boot’s study was published in the Annals of Neurology, January 24, 2012.

Review Date: 
March 19, 2012
Mayo Clinic