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Daily Record
Daily Record
Charlie Jones & Mya Bollan

Little-known 'red flag' sleep disorder that increases risk of dementia and Parkinson's

There is a little-known dementia red flag symptom that may be spotted while you sleep.

The disorder affects around two per cent of people over the age of 65 and could foreshadow the chances of later developing brain diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia.

Known as REM sleep disorder, or RBD, the health issue impacts roughly one per cent of the general population. Standing for rapid eye movement, REM impacts a person's dreams, memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development. This is an important stage in the sleep cycle, with the disorder stopping the body from entering a state of low muscle tone, meaning muscles do not 'act out' dreams.

People with REM will often shout, scream and even kick out when dreaming, with some even stating they feel they are being chased or attacked in their dreams, responding violently, reports the Mirror.

The disorder can lead to sufferers harming themselves or even a partner during their sleep, with 60 per cent of patients and 20 per cent of partners reporting they have been injured as a result of REM.

REM sleep disorder is not fully understood by scientists. It can appear at any age but usually starts for people in their 40s or 50s. However, younger people may find that the disorder is linked to the use of antidepressants.

Younger men and woman are usually impacted equally, but for older sufferers the disorder often affects male more commonly.

The disorder has been associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies - a disease associated with abnormal deposits alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain.

Scientists are working to analyse the link between the sleep behaviour and the linked health conditions, with 25 to 58 per cent of patients diagnosed with Parkinson's and 70 to 80 per cent of patients with dementia found to have Lewy bodies.

Following a long-term study, 1,280 patients with the disorder were found to develop such neurological issues.

After 12 years, 73.5 per cent of participants with REM went on to suffer with such illnesses.

The sleep disorder may be detectable years - even decades - prior to a diagnosis of dementia or Parkinson's.

The disorder can be treated with a number of therapies, with melatonin and clonazepam also used as medicine to improve the symptoms.

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