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Sleepwalking May be Direct Link to Parkinson’s Disease in Men

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Tanya Cooke

A study recently published in JAMA Network Open found that sleepwalking (SW) and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) are more common in men with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and that both sleep disorders may be direct contributors to PD-related neurodegeneration in men as well.

Of the approximately 26,000 men (average age 76 years) surveyed over 5+ years, 0.9% were found to have a probable SW, 10.6% were linked to probable RBD, and 1.0% to probable PD. RBD was also noted in 73% of those with PD. Both SW and RBD tendencies were measured using Mayo Clinic’s Sleep Questionnaire, which screens for such sleep-regulatory disorders. The findings showed a strong correlation between men with PD and probable SW, RBD, or both. Therefore, men exhibiting signs of SW and/or RBD disorders may have a higher probability of developing Parkinson’s Disease.

“Men exhibiting signs of sleepwalking and/or REM sleep behavior disorder may have a higher probability of developing Parkinson’s Disease.”

    Researchers explain that SW is specifically linked to higher chances of PD because, much like PD, it is complex, involves involuntary movements, confusion, and amnesia. Both SW and PD develop in the same part of the brain and, therefore, share a common pathway. RBD is the most common symptom of PD found to date, which is why it’s being so closely analyzed as a contributing factor.

    Although those conducting the study have taken necessary measures for the most accurate data retrieval possible, there were limitations, including the Mayo Clinic’s Sleep Questionnaire used to screen probable sleep disorders in participants. Although the questionnaire itself doesn’t present red flags for data collection and has been specifically vetted for information collected from large groups, inadvertent misclassification of participants could potentially have altered the legitimacy of data collected and, therefore, findings. Also, only men were studied; to ensure accuracy of conclusions drawn, follow-up studies should be conducted in the coming years.

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