Sleep and cerebral degenerative disorders

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By Raman Malhotra MD and Alon Avidan MD MPH

Degenerative diseases of the central nervous system are a large and varied group of disorders that affect a range of neurologic function. Sleep disorders are commonly seen in patients with cerebral degenerative diseases. Much of this may be related to the underlying central nervous system damage to sleep regulatory centers of the brain. Prompt attention to and treatment of these symptoms can result in significant improvement in quality of life.

Key Points

  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and circadian rhythm disorders, are common in patients with cerebral degenerative disorders.
  • The sleep disorder is many times secondary to damage to areas of the brain that control and regulate sleep and alertness.
  • REM-sleep behavior disorder is a parasomnia frequently seen in patients with Parkinson disease and other synucleinopathies and can sometimes predate the motor and cognitive symptoms of the condition by several years or longer.
  • Treatment of the underlying sleep disorder can not only help in improving quality of life, but may improve motor or cognitive symptoms of the underlying cerebral degenerative condition.