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Disturbed sleep 'could be Parkinson's indicator'

Disturbed sleep 'could be Parkinson's indicator'
11th July 2014

Sleeping problems could be a harbinger for Parkinson's Disease (PD), according to new research.

While the issue is often a common symptom for those who have already been diagnosed with PD, a report - published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease - has suggested it could also be an indicator that a person who hasn't be diagnosed could be on the verge of developing the condition.

REM-sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) in particular seemed to be a regular sign that a patient could have entered the early stages of PD.

Lead author of the report Dr Wiebke Schrempf said: "RBD seems to be a good clinical predictor of emerging neurodegenerative diseases with a high specificity and low sensitivity, whereas other early clinical features of PD, such as olfactory dysfunction and constipation, are less specific."

He noted that if it was the case that RBD could be identified as a key indicator of Parkinson's, then medical professionals could use this information to offer patients disease-modifying therapies before any motor symptoms appear, which is when such treatment "may be most beneficial". 

As many as 70 per cent of people diagnosed with PD experience sleeping problems that have a negative impact upon their quality of life, whether that be disturbed sleeping patterns or involuntary sleep 'attacks' during the day.

Those with RBD may demonstrate a temporary loss of muscle relaxation during REM sleep, while they could also exhibit movements and other dream enactment behaviour like shouting or laughing. These early clues could prove vital towards improving the life standard of a PD patient further down the line.

According to the NHS, one in 500 people are affected by Parkinson's in the UK, which equates to around 127,000 currently living with the condition in the country. Most people start to develop symptoms when they are over the age of 50.

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