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World Parkinson’s Day: Sleep survey to gain more knowledge

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Published on Friday, 09 April 2021

11 April marks Parkinson’s Disease Day. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative brain disorder, about 7-10 million people are affected worldwide. However, this number is likely to double in the next 20 years due to an ageing population. In Luxembourg, more than 1,000 people with PD are estimated.

Risk factors related to PD include genetic mutations (some mutations leading to familial forms of PD, others conferring a higher risk profile together with other genes) and environmental factors like pesticide exposure (PD is a professional disease in France for winegrowers), chemicals, head trauma and some specific sleep disorders. Current therapies focus on treating the symptoms of the disease, yet the underlying premature ageing of brain cells cannot be stopped. Therefore, a better understanding of the causes of PD and insights into early disease stages are needed to develop new treatment strategies.

We spend around one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep quality is essential for good health as poor sleep quality can be associated with various conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases, the National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease (NCER-PD) has recently launched a nationwide research survey on sleep behaviour disorders under the patronage of the Ministry of Health. This survey is part of the second phase of the NCER-PD research programme focusing on risk factors associated with the onset of PD. It focuses on the early phases of PD, where typical motor symptoms, such as trembling and stiffness, are not yet observed. Symptoms associated with PD like the rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) may precede the motor symptoms by many years.

RBD involves abnormal behaviour during one phase of the sleep cycle, the REM sleep during which we dream. While asleep, the people concerned are restless: they act out their dreams, speaking, yelling and making sudden movements. “The causes of this disorder are not yet fully understood, and further research is necessary to better understand an emerging link with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease,” explains Prof.  Rejko Krüger, coordinator of NCER-PD. “The national online survey on sleep quality is the first step in that direction.”

As treatment for this sleep disorder is available, the diagnosis will be beneficial and will help to significantly improve the participants’ sleep as well as their quality of life. Beyond this direct advantage, the long-term study will gather additional knowledge about the link between RBD and neurodegenerative diseases. “We hope to shed some light on why later in life some people transition to the early phases of Parkinson’s while others are protected. This will facilitate the development of new treatment strategies to prevent this conversion,” concludes Prof. Krüger.

RBD mainly affects adults older than 55. All Luxembourg residents aged 55 to 75 years will receive an official letter by post, inviting them to participate in this survey. For more information and registration, please visit www.RBD.lu.

Watch the video about the study.

 

This project is organised by NCER-PD, in collaboration with the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg, the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg and the Laboratoire national de Santé.

This survey is under the patronage of the Ministry of Health and financed by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).