A little-known sleep disorder that may be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease in the future

A little-known sleep disorder that may be a symptom of Parkinson's disease in the future

In Spain it is estimated 4 to 5 million people suffer from some type of serious sleep disorder; while around a third of the population (more than 12 million people) wake up every morning feeling like they haven’t slept well or end the day very tired.

Continuous poor sleep seriously damages our health. Poor sleep quality is related to the occurrence of several diseases, from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, metabolic changes to cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

It has also been shown that lack of sleep in middle age can increase the risk of dementia in the future. This was found by a study which analyzed data from around 8,000 people in the UK people who slept six hours or less a night were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease later in life than those who slept seven hours a night.

However, there is a a little-known sleep disorder which could be a harbinger of the likelihood of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. It is about RBDa behavioral disorder that occurs during REM sleep that it affects approximately 1% of the population and is more common in older people, especially men.

According to “Scientific American” magazine, some studies suggest that represented dreams predict a greater than 80% probability of developing a neurodegenerative disease during the patient’s lifetime. In medical terms, these symptoms are known as “REM sleep behavior disorder” or simply as “RBD” (for its abbreviation in English: REM sleep behavior disorder).

When we sleep, we all go through different stages of sleep. The fourth and final stage is called “REM” where rapid eye movement occurs. During this period, it is normal for people to have limited movement as the muscles are at rest. However, there are cases when people they represent a dream experienced through screams, laughter, violent movements of arms and legs.

In these cases, the neural pathways in the brain do not function as they should and that is why it is called a disorder. While RBD can be an early symptom of neurodegenerative disease, this is not always the case. Represented dreams can be triggered by certain medications, such as antidepressants, or be caused by other underlying conditions, such as narcolepsy or a brainstem tumor.

However, when RBD occurs without these alternative explanations, the probability that you will suffer from this type of pathology in the future is highwhich appears on average within 10 to 15 years of the onset of the sleep disorder.

One of the most common diseases associated with RBD is Parkinson’s disease, characterized by a progressive loss of motor control with symptoms such as stiff muscles, slow movements, difficulty walking, and tremors. Another is Lewy body dementia, which causes the gradual deterioration of mental abilities. People with this synucleinopathy may experience visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention and symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. A third type would be multiple system atrophy, which impairs movement as well as involuntary functions such as digestion.

The scientific journal concludes that “RBD is one of the strongest predictors of future synucleinopathy, more predictive than other early markers such as chronic constipation and reduced sense of smell.”

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