IF you thrash about in your sleep it could be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s and dementia, experts have warned.
People who sleep talk, twitch, jerk, shout, scream, hit and punch in their sleep could have a disorder that’s linked to the brain diseases, they said.
And the cause is inflammation that’s responsible for a lack of dopamine – a chemical that sends messages – in the brain.
People suffering rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder, or RBD for short, are at higher risk of the debilitating conditions as they get older, scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark discovered.
Morten Gersel Stokholm, one of the researchers, said: “These patients have an inflammation of the brain in the area where the dopamine-producing nerve cells are found.”
People who suffer RBD typically thrash about during the part of sleep when you dream.
People who suffer rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder are at greater risk because of inflammation in their brain
Healthy people will be relaxed, and lie still while they’re dreaming.
Symptoms of RBD include acting out your dream, as well as making noises including talking, laughing, shouting and swearing.
And being able to remember your dreams is also a key sign, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The new findings show developing Parkinson’s disease or dementia is a high risk for RBD sufferers, because they already suffer from a lack of dopamine in the brain.
The sleep disorder causes a lack of dopamine in the brain, which is thought to contribute to Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease happens because the group of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine stop working.
The findings show for the first time inflammation in the brain in RBD patients puts them at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Stokholm, who works at Aarhus University Hospital, said: “With this study, we have gained new knowledge about the disease processes in the brain in the early initial stages of the disease development.
The idea is for this knowledge to be used to determine which patients with the sleep disorder will later develop Parkinson’s disease
Morten Gersel StokholmAarhus University
“The idea is for this knowledge to be used to determine which patients with the sleep disorder will later develop Parkinson’s disease.
“At the same time, this is also knowledge that can help to develop drugs which can stop or slow the development of the diseases.”
RBS typically affects people aged 50 to 70, and more frequently men than women.
In the UK around one in 500 people suffer Parkinson’s, which means there are around 127,000 sufferers with the condition.
Most are diagnosed over the age of 50, though one in 20 people with the condition suffer their first symptoms under the age of 40.
The three key signs of the disease are involuntary shaking of parts of the body, known as a tremor, slow movement and stiff, inflexible muscles.
Parkinson’s is chronic, getting worse over time.
The Danish findings are published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.