A study from Denmark’s Center for Healthy Aging and the Danish Center for Sleep Medicine, among other places, explains how dreams may hold the clue that people may be on track to develop Parkinson’s. Researchers found that one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s may be a REM sleep disorder known as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD).
There are a few things that happen with RBD:
- Usually when we sleep, the body shuts down our muscle movement during REM sleep so that we can’t act out our dreams
- In people with RBD, this shut-down doesn’t happen
- In this case, people have dreams that are very vivid and violent, compelling them to talk, punch, kick, scream, and even jump out of bed.
- Interestingly, RBD is usually seen in middle-aged to elderly people, and is more likely to happen in men than in women.
This highly active dreaming can appear up to eight years before the onset of other symptoms of Parkinson’s, so researchers are eager to see if they can use this to help patients before the disease becomes too severe. The next step is for scientists to see if RBD is always a sign of Parkinson’s or if active dreaming could be a benign trait.
In addition to being a possible early sign of Parkinson’s, RBD prevents people from getting restful sleep, mostly because they are so active during their dreams.
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