REM sleep behavior disorder is a rare disorder that causes people to kick and punch in their sleep and a new study has revealed that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for developing this disorder. The American Academy of Neurology study published in the June 27, 2012 issue reports that other risk factors include smoking and pesticide exposure.
The disorder is also a precursor to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other kinds of dementia. Over 50% of people with REM sleep behavior disorder go on to develop one of these debilitating conditions, bad news for those with a history of concussions or traumatic brain injuries.
The investigation sought to discover whether the risk conditions were similar between dementia and REM sleep behavior disorder, but discovered that many of the risk factors for dementia aren’t necessarily connected to the disorder, meaning that it is likely that the disorder itself is the link. Those who had the disorder were 59% more likely than average to have had a previous head injury.
The Dangers of Concussions
This information comes at a time when concussions are in the news a great deal. There are new rules and regulation for high school athletes as well as thousands of ex-NFL players filing class action lawsuits against the NFL. It seems that, while the NFL has known the dangers of repeated traumatic brain injuries, that information has not been put into practice to help players until recently. High schools have been much more proactive about protecting their young players, and with good reason. In addition to being linked to this sleep disorder, concussions have been linked to longterm memory loss, severe headaches, and other lifelong problems.