Do You Punch Or Kick In Your Sleep? Pesticides May Be To Blame

By Amir Khan on June 28, 2012 3:22 PM EDT

Sleeping
If you or someone you know punches, kicks or yells in their sleep, they may have a rare sleeping disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD. (Photo: Reuters / Luke Macgregor)

If you or someone you know punches, kicks or yells in their sleep, they may have a rare sleeping disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD. RBD affects an estimated 0.5 percent of adults worldwide, and researchers now say they have identified some risk factors that contribute to the development of the condition, which they say is a precursor to Parkinson's disease.

During normal REM sleep, the body becomes paralyzed. People with RBD, however, often ac tout their dreams, which results in them flailing, yelling, punching or kicking, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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"Until now, we didn't know much about the risk factors for this disorder, except that it was more common in men and in older people," Dr. Ronald B. Postuma, study coauthor and researcher at McGill University Health Centre, told CNN. "We wanted to investigate whether the risk factors for REM sleep behavior disorder were similar to those for Parkinson's disease or dementia."

Researchers looked at almost 700 people and found that risk factors for RBD include smoking, head injury, and exposure to pesticides. What's interesting, researchers said, is that some risk factors for RBD actually protect against Parkinson's, which experts believe RBD is a precursor to.

"One of the most intriguing aspects of this work is the picture of similarities and differences among risk factors for RBD and Parkinson disease," Drs. Shannon Sullivan and Christian Guilleminault, neurologists at Stanford University, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study, published in the journal Neurology. "While pesticide exposure appears to be a risk factor for both disorders, smoking, for example, which is protective for PD, is a risk factor for RBD."

Sleep disorders affect between 25 and 30 percent of all Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Researchers said better understanding the risk factors for RBD could possibly help find treatment.

"The central message is that this sleep disorder can present 10 to 20 years before people ever get Parkinson's," Postuma told the Huffington Post. "It is early enough to intervene that we could make a real difference in their quality of life."

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