If you’ve ever had a loved one who started showing signs of dementia, you know how heartbreaking it can be. Dementia with Lewy bodies (LCD) is a particularly aggressive form of this cognitive disorder that affects certain parts of the brain, causing rigidity and behavioral changes such as delusions and hallucinations and mood disturbances. While MCI is often difficult to diagnose due to its unclear symptoms, research has found that an important sign may be visible up to a decade before MCI is generally recognized. In this article, we explain what this warning sign is and how understanding it could help diagnose dementia with Lewy bodies earlier and allow for more effective treatments over time.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (LCD) is a complex form of neurodegeneration that impairs multiple areas of cognition. It is the second most common type of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease, with approximately 250,000 people affected in France alone. According to the Association Alzheimer France, 67% of cases of DCL are not diagnosed. This debilitating disease usually manifests after the age of 50 and affects a wide range of bodily functions and psychological processes such as memory, learning ability and decision making. As there is currently no cure for DCL, it remains a heavy burden for its victims and their families.
TCSP, behavioral disorder in REM sleep, is the indicator sign of a future DCL.
REM sleep behavior disorder is a sleep disorder characterized by the loss of muscle atonia during REM sleep, resulting in physical or vocal behaviors that can be disruptive or even dangerous. TCSP can manifest as talking, shouting, hitting, kicking, abnormal arm or leg movements, jumping out of bed, or other violent physical behaviors during sleep. People who suffer from TCSP often report that they have violent dreams in their sleep. This can cause them to injure themselves, for example by cutting themselves or bruising themselves.
REM sleep disorder affects both men and women and usually manifests in middle-aged adults, but it can also occur in people of any age.
A revolutionary study recently conducted by the famous Mayo Clinic in the United States looked at one particular sleep disorder that may be an early warning sign of Lewy body dementia. The results of their research showed that the motor abnormalities can appear up to ten years before the official diagnosis and that they occur frequently during periods of REM sleep.
This fascinating discovery provides useful information that can potentially lead to more accurate diagnoses and earlier treatments for people with this behavioral disorder.
The TCSP could also predict Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to being disruptive, this disorder can be associated with one in life. In 2016, a study was published by the Federation for Brain Research (FRC) indicating a strong link between REM sleep behavior disorder and neurodegenerative diseases. Their research revealed that more than 80% of affected patients eventually developed Parkinson’s disease. This makes REM sleep behavior disorder the most reliable predictor of neurodegeneration we currently know, and it may indicate the onset of these diseases 3 to 15 years before the onset of symptoms.
Scientists believe that this disorder is caused by the deterioration of a nucleus located in the pons, which is an area of the brainstem responsible for controlling motor functions and influencing levels of consciousness.
Therefore, by carefully monitoring REM sleep behavior in people of all ages, doctors may be able to make a diagnosis and provide treatment much earlier.
What treatments are envisaged in case of TCSP?
The main treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder usually consists of medications, such as clonazepam or rivotril and melatonin. These medications can help reduce disruptive behaviors that occur during REM sleep.
In addition to drug therapy, other strategies may be helpful in treating the disorder, such as providing a safe sleeping environment and avoiding the use of alcohol or sedatives before bedtime. Non-drug treatments may also be recommended for some patients, including psychotherapy to address underlying psychological issues and cognitive behavioral therapy to help modify maladaptive behaviors.
Other therapies may include relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, hypnotherapy, biofeedback (biological feedback), and lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding caffeine at the end of the day and adhering to regular sleeping and waking times.