Even as we sleep, doctors say our brain stays active. “In our deepest stages of sleep, our brain waves are really slow. But just because our brain is slow doesn’t mean that we can’t have thoughts,” said Dr. Jose Colon, a sleep medicine physician with Lee Health.
Those thoughts may cause reactions in our sleep, like sleepwalking or sleep talking. “Parasomnia is our undesired motor movements that occur during sleep. You kind break them into two different kinds some that occur in our REM sleep, others that occur in our deep sleep,” said Dr. Colon.
But if movements occur during a patient’s REM sleep, this could be a warning sign in patients over the age of 65. “If there is sleep talking in the elderly that might not be sleep talking. It may be something called REM behavior disorder,” said Dr. Colon.
When a patient is in a REM cycle the body is paralyzed so dreams can’t be acted out, but if a patient has REM behavior disorder, they lose that paralysis and are able to react to dreams. “Sleep walking or sleep talking or dream acting behavior in the elderly is important to identify because it could be an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Colon.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, where the brain stem is affected causing a loss of motor symptoms. Doctors say the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease are controlled by the same part of the brain that causes REM behavior disorder. “It’s different than sleepwalking and sleep talking that occurs in the deep stages of sleep. REM behavior disorder occurs in our REM sleep which is our active brain time.
REM behavior disorder can start ten years before the onset of other Parkinson’s symptoms. If patients are walking, talking, grabbing, or yelling in their sleep, a sleep study is important to determine if the patient has REM behavior disorder.
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