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Clin Cornerstone. 2004;6 Suppl 1A:S16-28.

Sleep disorders in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

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Department of Neurology, Program in Sleep, Aging and Chronobiology, Emory University Medical School, Atlanta, Georgia 30329, USA.


Patients with dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), often have nocturnally disrupted sleep. Clinically, this may present as agitation during the nighttime hours, which may affect as many as a quarter of AD patients during some stage of their illness. Sleep disturbance in AD may be multifactorial and involve sleep-disordered breathing and disrupted chronobiology, both often characterized by excessive daytime napping. Polysomnographically, AD patients show decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in proportion to the extent of their dementia; some evidence suggests that cholinesterase inhibitors, commonly used pharmacologic agents for cognitive loss in AD, may increase REM sleep measures. Unfortunately, such agents may also induce insomnia and vivid dreams. There have been no randomized clinical trials of sedative-hypnotic medications specifically targeted at AD patients with sleep problems. Evidence suggests that sedative-hypnotics, such as benzodiazepine site-specific agonists, may have a role in some cases, whereas atypical antipsychotics may be necessary in other cases. There are also reports of successful interventions with nonpharmacologic options (eg, exercise, illumination). The utility of melatonin as a hypnotic in this population appears equivocal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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