REM sleep disorder a risk factor for Parkinson's disease

Three-year study tracks dopamine levels in those who suffer behavioral sleep disorders.

Woman sleeping bed insomnia 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Woman sleeping bed insomnia 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Researchers have found that the progression of Parkinson’s disease can be detected in those who suffer from REM behavioral sleep disorders.
A three-part study published by Lancet Neurology and authored by doctors at Multidisciplinary Sleep Disorders Unit, is the third consecutive work in five years addressing the relationship between Rapid Eye Movement sleep disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
The first part of the study showed that 45 percent of patients who suffer this sleep disorder develop Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain.
In Parkinson’s disease, for instance, a deficiency of dopamine in the substantia nigra causes tremor, stiffness and movement slowness in patients.
Using neuroimaging tests that measure dopamine levels on 20 patients with REM disorder and 20 healthy controls over three years, researchers concluded that dopamine in the brain decreases over the years in patients with REM sleep behavior disorder, which puts them at risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s.
Authors of the study suggest that further development of neuroprotective drugs that prevent the dopamine concentration in at-risk patients and thus the progression of REM sleep behavior to Parkinson’s disease, are needed.