Sleep Disorder as an Early Indicator of Parkinson’s

Researchers are still looking for ways to identify Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases before the physical symptoms become obvious. Recent attention has been on problems with smell — that a standard doctor’s office smell test can be a remarkably effective predictor of Parkinson’s. That, in turn, might allow doctors to prescribe substances that have a protective effect.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (including Dr. Bradley Boeve, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) are know looking at whether certain types of sleep disorders are associated with developing dementias, such as Parkinson’s. The studies (press releases at focused on REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), a condition where people act out events in their dreams, sometimes violently.
RBD has long been anecdotally associated with Parkinson’s. These studies were apparently the first to examine this proposition in a larger population-based method. The studies determined that other neurological problems, such as cognitive decline, anxiety, apathy, and Parkinsonism, were statistically more likely to happen in people with RBD than in the general population. 
More study is definitely in order, especially regarding the co-incidence of Parkinsonism. But it does make me wonder if the cognitive problems are simply a result of poor quality sleep. I look forward to hearing more about it.