Study Defines Risk Factors for REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A study published in Neurology online found that taking antidepressants for depression or having anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are correlated with the disruptive and sometimes violent rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder. 

In this study, people with possible REM sleep behavior disorder were more than 2.5 times as likely than those without it to take antidepressants for depression; 2.5 times as likely to have PTSD; 2 times as likely to have mental illness; and more than 1.5 times as likely to have psychologic distress. These individuals were also 25% more likely to be moderate to heavy drinkers or to have smoked; they also had slightly less education and lower income. Men were twice as likely as women to have possible REM sleep behavior disorder.

Researchers evaluated 30,097 people, mean age 63, and screened participants for a variety of health conditions and lifestyle, behavior, social, economic, and psychologic factors. Every participant was asked, “Have you ever been told, or suspected yourself, that you seem to act out your dreams while asleep?” After excluding participants with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or sleep apnea, researchers identified 958 people (3.2%) with possible REM sleep behavior disorder.

“Our research does not show that these risk factors cause REM sleep behavior disorder, it only shows they are linked,” said study author Ronald Postuma, MD, MSc, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “Our hope is that our findings will help guide future research, especially because REM sleep behavior disorder is such a strong sign of future neurodegenerative disease. The more we understand about REM sleep behavior disorder, the better positioned we will be to eventually prevent neurologic conditions like Parkinson's disease.”

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