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Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and REM sleep without atonia (RWA) have assumed much clinical importance with long-term data showing progression into neurodegenerative conditions among older adults. However, much less is known about RBD and RWA in younger populations. This study aims at comparing clinical and polysomnographic (PSG) characteristics of young patients presenting with RBD, young patients with other neurological conditions, and normal age-matched subjects.
A retrospective chart review was carried out for consecutive young patients (<25 years) presenting with clinical features of RBD; and data were compared to data from patients with epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism, as well as normal subjects who underwent PSG during a 2-year-period.
Twelve patients fulfilling RBD diagnostic criteria, 22 autism patients, 10 with ADHD, 30 with epilepsy, and 14 normal subjects were included. Eight patients with autism (30%), three with ADHD (30%), one with epilepsy (3.3%), and six patients who had presented with RBD like symptoms (50%) had abnormal movements and behaviors during REM sleep. Excessive transient muscle activity and/or sustained muscle activity during REM epochs was found in all patients who had presented with RBD, in 16/22 (72%) autistic patients, 6/10 (60%) ADHD patients compared to only 6/30 (20%) patients with epilepsy and in none of the normal subjects.
We observed that a large percentage of young patients with autism and ADHD and some with epilepsy demonstrate loss of REM-associated atonia and some RBD-like behaviors on polysomnography similar to young patients presenting with RBD.
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