Of course I thought about that as I read of a new study in the journal, Neurology showing that an REM sleep disorder may signal dementia or Parkinson’s disease up to 50 years before the disorders are diagnosed. For the study, researchers used Mayo Clinic records for 27 patients who experienced REM sleep behavior disorder for at least 15 years before developing one of three conditions: Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy, a disorder that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.
The study found that the time between the start of the sleep disorder and the symptoms of the neurologic disorders ranged up to 50 years, with an average span of 25 years. Of the participants, 13 were diagnosed with dementia, 13 others were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and one person was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy.
“Our findings suggest that in some patients, conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies have a very long span of activity within the brain and they also may have a long period of time where other symptoms aren’t apparent,” said study author Dr. Bradley F. Boeve. His work did not give an indication how many people with REM disorder may go on to develop Parkinson’s or dementia.