John Libbey Eurotext

Psychologie & NeuroPsychiatrie du vieillissement


Disruptive nocturnal behavior in elderly subjects: could it be a parasomnia? Volume 8, issue 2, juin 2010


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Unité des pathologies du sommeil, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, CRICM UPMC/Inserm UMRS-975, Paris, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris

Parasomnias are sleep-related abnormal behaviors. They are frequent and overlooked causes of nocturnal disruptive behavior in the elderly, especially when patients are cognitively impaired. Confusion and violence can result in sleep disruption, injuries for the patients or their bed partners, caregivers distress, and they can be a motive for institutionalization. Parasomnias include the NonREM sleep disorders of arousal (sleepwalking, sleep terrors, confusional arousals and sleep-related eating disorder), the REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and more rarely the parasomnia overlap syndrome, which associates both NREM and REM parasomnias. Patients with NREM sleep parasomnias are confused, eyes open, with a glazed look during their nocturnal behaviors, and they have a post-episode amnesia. They shout and bolt from the bed (night terrors), look about in a confused manner, walk and speak (sleepwalking), and eat peculiar or inedible food (sleep-related eating disorders). These behaviors, which are frequent in young adults, may be triggered by short-half live hypnotics in elderly. During the parasomnia, the brain is partially awake (enough to perform complex motor and verbal action), and partially asleep (without conscious awareness or responsibility). RBD is characterized by a loss of the normal muscle atonia that accompanies REM sleep. Patients have excessive motor activity such as punching, kicking, or crying out in association with dream content. RBD are frequent in Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies and may precede the cognitive or motor symptoms of these diseases by 5 to 10 years. RBD can also be promoted by antidepressants. When combined with thorough clinical interviews, the video-polysomnography is a powerful tool, especially for discriminating the parasomnia from nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy, sleep apneas and periodic leg movements. Ensuring safety and withdrawing deleterious treatments are useful in patients with violent activities, potential injurious or bothersome to other household members. Clonazepam and melatonin (3-12 mg) are highly effective for treating RBD.