Nav: Home

Rare sleep disorder common among veterans with PTSD

October 11, 2019

Military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or concussion suffer from a thrashing form of sleep behavior at a rate that is far higher than the general population, according to a new study by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System and Oregon Health & Science University. The finding was published online this week in the journal SLEEP.

Researchers next want to probe whether the disorder, known as REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, might provide an early signal of the development of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

Normally during sleep that coincides with rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, muscles are effectively paralyzed. In cases of RBD, brain control of muscle paralysis is impaired, resulting in people acting out dreams during REM sleep, sometimes causing injuries to themselves or their partners. It is estimated to effect less than 1% of the general population.

That proportion rose to 9% of the 394 veterans in this study, and further swelled to 21% among those with PTSD.

"This is important because, in the general population, RBD has been linked to Parkinson's disease, and RBD often precedes classic symptoms of Parkinson's by years," said senior author Miranda Lim, M.D., Ph.D., a staff physician at the VA and assistant professor of neurology, medicine and behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine. "We don't know whether veterans who have PTSD and higher rates of RBD will go on to develop Parkinson's, but it is an important question we need to answer."

Researchers suspect chronic stress on the brain may play a role in causing the sleep disorder in veterans with PTSD, as many veterans have been exposed to concussion which potentially accelerates neurodegenerative processes.

Each study participant underwent an overnight sleep study at the VA Portland Health Care System between 2015 and 2017 to determine the presence of dream enactment during episodes of REM sleep. Muscle activity was monitored continuously during the 8 hours of the study in order to diagnose RBD. The study found that those with PTSD had over 2-fold increased odds of RBD compared to veterans without PTSD.

"RBD seems to be highly prevalent in veterans with a history of trauma," said lead author Jonathan Elliott, Ph.D., a research physiologist at the Portland VA and assistant professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Doctors involved in the study, including co-authors Kristianna Weymann, Ph.D., R.N., a clinical assistant professor in OHSU School of Nursing, and Dennis Pleshakov, a student at the OHSU School of Medicine, will continue to track research participants with RBD, looking for early signs of Parkinson's or other neurodegenerative conditions.

Although there are several therapies to ease some of the symptoms of Parkinson's, including tremor and fatigue, so far there has been no definitive therapy to prevent it.

Clinical trials for promising therapies are usually conducted well after patients have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, at a stage which may be too late to reverse the symptoms. Lim said that identifying patients with RBD presents an opportunity to identify people earlier in the disease course, and potentially provides a more viable window to test promising interventions.

"By the time a patient shows classic symptoms of Parkinson's, it may be too late," Lim said. "If you could intervene when people first start to show RBD, maybe you could prevent later symptoms of Parkinson's."
-end-
The study was supported with resources and the use of facilities at the VA Portland Health Care System, VA Career Development Award No. 1K2 BX002712; National Institutes of Health EXITO institutional core grant No. UL1GM118964; Portland VA Research Foundation; NIH grant No. T32 AT002688; VA Career Development award No. 1K2 RX002947; OHSU Medical Research Foundation; and VA OAA Post-doctoral Nursing Research Fellowship.

Interpretations and conclusions are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. government.

Oregon Health & Science University

Related Sleep Articles:

Wind turbine noise affects dream sleep and perceived sleep restoration
Wind turbine noise (WTN) influences people's perception of the restorative effects of sleep, and also has a small but significant effect on dream sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows.
To sleep deeply: The brainstem neurons that regulate non-REM sleep
University of Tsukuba researchers identified neurons that promote non-REM sleep in the brainstem in mice.
Chronic opioid therapy can disrupt sleep, increase risk of sleep disorders
Patients and medical providers should be aware that chronic opioid use can interfere with sleep by reducing sleep efficiency and increasing the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.
Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.
Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.
Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.
Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?
Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Kicking, yelling during sleep? Study finds risk factors for violent sleep disorder
Taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, according to a study published in the Dec.
More Sleep News and Sleep Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.