Restless sleep could be an early sign of Parkinson's

Patients not only sleepwalk or talk, but also end up laughing and swearing in their sleep.

Hyderabad: Moving around too much in one’s sleep and thrashing bed covers could be a sign of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, claims a study published in Lancet Neurology. The study claims movement while sleeping or ‘acting out one’s dream’ is characteristic of a condition called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) behaviour disorder. Damage to a group of cells in a person’s brain stem that is responsible for controlling one’s sleep causes the disorder. In this condition, one’s brain seems to produce less dopamine, which is a chemical crucial for sending messages.

Y. Venkatesh, a neurosurgeon, said, “Parkinson’s is largely associated with the lack of dopamine in a person’s brain. Dopamine is neurotransmitter and the lack of it causes loss of control of voluntary movement by the body.” The body muscles are generally paralysed by the brain stem during one’s sleep. But excessive movement by RBD patients occurs as there is a malfunction in the brain stem due to the lack of dopamine. The lack of the chemical also causes neuroinflammation. The study claims that most patients suffering from RBD do not just sleepwalk or talk but also end up laughing and swearing in their sleep. Unless the patient gets stuck in a dangerous situation or is alerted by his/her sleeping partner, doctors claim that the condition goes unnoticed for long.

Sudhir Kumar, a neurologist, added, “There is a lack of awareness about sleep disorders. People who move their legs more frequently in their sleep or who appear to be restless are actually suffering from sleep disorders. We normally conduct sleep studies to diagnose the condition. Mostly patients just write such symptoms off but they can all be indicators or early signs of Parkinson’s as the chemical dopamine can be seen lacking in all these conditions.” Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed after having REM for eight to 10 years. Medical experts also say that snoring and insomia are only singled out as sleeping disorders by people.

Deep or disturbed sleep?

  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder leads to excessive movement while asleep
  • Affects people aged 40-60 mostly
  • RBD indicator of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases
  • Lack of dopamine leads to loss of fine tuning of the brain

Symptoms of REM

  • Arm flailing.
  • Jumping out of bed.
  • Talking loudly.
  • Sitting up in bed.
  • Sleep talking/yelling.
  • Leg movement

How to fight REM

  • Get adequate amount of sleep (8 hours)
  • Undergo monitoring for neurological diseases
  • Keep bedroom safe by removing fragile objects.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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