Sleep problems 'could identify early onset Parkinson's'
Article date: 11 July 2014
People who exhibit particular behaviour during their sleep could be developing the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), according to new research.
The study - carried out by experts in the Netherlands and published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease - identified REM-sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) as a possible indicator of PD.
Up to 70 per cent of Parkinson's disease patients experience some form of sleeping disorder, from varying levels of insomnia to involuntarily falling asleep during the day.
RBD is generally characterised by a person's vivid and/or violent dreams, which they can often be seen to be enacting as they slumber. This could involve them kicking out, shouting, laughing and boxing.
However, it is hoped this latest link can be used to improve the early detection rates of PD and improve the way patients receive treatment as a result.
Dr Wiebke Schrepf, the report's lead author, said: "These early clues may help identify PD patients before motor symptoms appear, when disease-modifying therapies may be most beneficial."
He noted RBD seemed to be a "good clinical predictor" of neurodegenerative diseases that are still in the emergence phase. This could be particularly useful when other indicators of Parkinson's, like constipation and olfactory dysfunction, are considered to be less specific.
Unfortunately, sleep problems often worsen in PD patients as the condition develops and the issue can often result in social isolation, excessive risk of falling, the impairment of concentration and the exhaustion of both the person with the disease and their carer. Some medication, like antidepressants, can also interfere with a person's quality of sleep.
According to official figures, one in 500 people will develop Parkinson's disease. It is most prevalent in those aged above 50, although one in 20 patients who are diagnosed first experience symptoms when they are under 40. Men are also considered to be more susceptible than women.