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Violent dreams may predict illness in advance

Sleep disorder can precede neurodegenerative disease by decades

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3:46pm, August 3, 2010

Vivid, violent dreams can portend brain disorders by half a century, a new study finds. The result, reported in the Aug. 10 Neurology, highlights how some neurological diseases may take hold decades before a person is diagnosed. Spotting early warning signs of the disease may allow clinicians to monitor and treat patients long before the brain deteriorates.

People with a mysterious sleep disturbance called REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, experience a sudden change in the nature of dreams. Dreams increasingly become more violent and frequently involve episodes in which an attacker must be fought off. The normal muscle paralysis that accompanies dreams is gone, leaving the dreamer, who is most often male, to act out the dream’s punches, twists and yells. In many cases, a person sharing the dreamer’s bed can be injured.

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