Smoking, head injury, pesticide use may be risk factors for rare sleep disorder

June 27, 2012

Smoking, head injury, pesticide exposure, farming and less education may be risk factors for a rare sleep disorder that causes people to kick or punch during sleep, according to a study published in the June 27, 2012, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

People with the disorder, called REM sleep , do not have the normal lack of that occurs during (REM) sleep, causing them to act out their dreams. The movements can sometimes be violent, causing injury to the person or their bed partner. The disorder is estimated to occur in 0.5 percent of adults.

"Until now, we didn't know much about the risk factors for this disorder, except that it was more common in men and in older people," said study author Ronald B. Postuma, MD, MSc, with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Because it is a rare disorder, it was difficult to gather information about enough patients for a full study. For this study, we worked with 13 institutions in 10 countries to get a full picture of the disorder."

The disorder can also be a precursor to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and a type of dementia. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of people with REM sleep behavior disorder go on to develop a years or even decades later.

"Due to this connection, we wanted to investigate whether the risk factors for REM sleep behavior disorder were similar to those for Parkinson's disease or dementia," Postuma said.

The results were mixed. While smoking has found to be a protective factor for Parkinson's disease, people who smoked were found to be more likely to develop REM sleep behavior disorder. , on the other hand, is a risk factor for both disorders. Studies have shown that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop Parkinson's, but this study found no relationship between coffee drinking and REM sleep behavior disorder.

For the study, 347 people with REM sleep behavior disorder were compared to 347 people who did not have the disorder. Of those, 218 had other and 129 had no sleep disorders.

Those with REM sleep behavior disorder were 43 percent more likely to be smokers, with 64 percent of those with the disorder having ever smoked, compared to 56 percent of those without the disorder. They were 59 percent more likely to have had a previous head injury with loss of consciousness, 67 percent more likely to have worked as farmers, and more than twice as likely to have been exposed to pesticides through work. Those with the disorder also had fewer years of education, with an average of 11.1 years, compared to 12.7 years for those without the disorder.

Explore further: REM sleep behavior disorder is a risk factor for Parkinson's disease

More information: To learn more about sleep disorders, visit www.aan.com/patients

Related Stories

REM sleep behavior disorder is a risk factor for Parkinson's disease

July 29, 2011
Patients suffering REM sleep behaviour disorders dream nightmares in which they are attacked and pursued, with the particularity that they express them by screaming, crying, punching and kicking while sleeping. Lancet Neurology ...

REM sleep disorder doubles risk of mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson's

March 14, 2012
People with symptoms suggesting rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, have twice the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Parkinson's disease within four years of diagnosis with the sleep problem, ...

Potential cause of severe sleep disorder discovered, implications for Parkinson's disease

June 15, 2011
Researchers at the University of Toronto are the first to indentify a potential cause for a severe sleep disorder that has been closely linked to Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Recommended for you

Scientists reveal new avenue for drug treatment in neuropathic pain

November 24, 2017
New research from King's College London has revealed a previously undiscovered mechanism of cellular communication, between neurons and immune cells, in neuropathic pain.

Small but distinct differences among species mark evolution of human brain

November 23, 2017
The most dramatic divergence between humans and other primates can be found in the brain, the primary organ that gives our species its identity.

Team constructs whole-brain map of electrical connections key to forming memories

November 22, 2017
A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has constructed the first whole-brain map of electrical connectivity in the brain based on data from nearly 300 neurosurgical patients with electrodes implanted ...

To forget or to remember? Memory depends on subtle brain signals, scientists find

November 22, 2017
The fragrance of hot pumpkin pie can bring back pleasant memories of holidays past, while the scent of an antiseptic hospital room may cause a shudder. The power of odors to activate memories both pleasing and aversive exists ...

Pitch imperfect? How the brain decodes pitch may improve cochlear implants

November 22, 2017
Picture yourself with a friend in a crowded restaurant. The din of other diners, the clattering of dishes, the muffled notes of background music, the voice of your friend, not to mention your own – all compete for your ...

New research suggests high-intensity exercise boosts memory

November 22, 2017
The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.