People with symptoms suggesting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep  behavior disorder, or RBD, have twice the risk of developing mild  cognitive impairment (MCI) or Parkinson’s disease within 4 years of  diagnosis with the sleep problem, compared with people without the  disorder, a Mayo Clinic study has found. The researchers published their  findings recently in the Annals of Neurology.

One of the hallmarks of REM sleep is a state of paralysis. In  contrast, people with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder appear  to act out their dreams when they are in REM sleep.

Researchers used the  Mayo Sleep Questionnaire to diagnose probable RBD in people who were  otherwise neurologically normal. Approximately 34% of people diagnosed  with probable RBD developed MCI or Parkinson’s disease within 4 years of  entering the study, a rate 2.2 times greater than those with normal  rapid eye movement sleep.

“Understanding that certain patients are at greater risk for MCI or  Parkinson’s disease will allow for early intervention, which is vital in  the case of such disorders that destroy brain cells.

Although we are  still searching for effective treatments, our best chance of success is  to identify and treat these disorders early, before cell death,” says  co-author Brad Boeve, MD, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

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