Treatment of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

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Clonazepam, a benzodiazapine, curtails or eliminates the disorder about 90% of the time. The advantage of the medication is that people don't usually develop a tolerance for the drug, even over a period of years. When clonazepam doesn't work, some antidepressants or melatonin may reduce the violent behavior. However, it's a good idea to make the bedroom a safe environment, removing all sharp and breakable objects.

Diseases Associated with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Drs. Schneck and Mahowald have conducted research indicating that 38% of 29 otherwise healthy patients with REM sleep behavior disorder went on to develop a parkinsonian disorder, presumably Parkinson's disease (PD), a degenerative neurological disease characterized by tremors, rigidity, lack of movement or loss of spontaneous movement, and problems with walking or posture. Other studies have found associations between RBD and other neurodegenerative diseases related to Parkinson's. "We don't know why RBD and PD are linked," says Dr. Mahowald, "but there is an obvious relationship, as about 40% of individuals who present with RBD without any signs or symptoms of PD will eventually go on to develop PD."

"People with RBD will understandably be concerned about the possibility of the later development of PD, given the statistics," says Mahowald. "We are not aware of anything that can be done to prevent or delay the development of PD in those destined to do so. We recommend an annual evaluation by a neurologist, so if PD is going to develop, it can be detected and treated at the earliest possible time. "Given the fact that the majority of patients with RBD who went on to develop PD were already taking clonazepam, it is unlikely that clonazepam will reduce the likelihood of developing PD in those so predisposed."

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