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Sleep. 2016 Jan 1;39(1):121-32. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5332.

The Clinical Phenotype of Idiopathic Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder at Presentation: A Study in 203 Consecutive Patients.

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Neurology Service, Multidisciplinary Sleep Disorders Unit, Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, University of Barcelona Medical School, IDIBAPS, CIBERNED, Barcelona, Spain.



To describe the clinical phenotype of idiopathic rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (IRBD) at presentation in a sleep center.


Clinical history review of 203 consecutive patients with IRBD identified between 1990 and 2014. IRBD was diagnosed by clinical history plus video-polysomnographic demonstration of REM sleep with increased electromyographic activity linked to abnormal behaviors.


Patients were 80% men with median age at IRBD diagnosis of 68 y (range, 50-85 y). In addition to the already known clinical picture of IRBD, other important features were apparent: 44% of the patients were not aware of their dream-enactment behaviors and 70% reported good sleep quality. In most of these cases bed partners were essential to convince patients to seek medical help. In 11% IRBD was elicited only after specific questioning when patients consulted for other reasons. Seven percent did not recall unpleasant dreams. Leaving the bed occurred occasionally in 24% of subjects in whom dementia with Lewy bodies often developed eventually. For the correct diagnosis of IRBD, video-polysomnography had to be repeated in 16% because of insufficient REM sleep or electromyographic artifacts from coexistent apneas. Some subjects with comorbid obstructive sleep apnea reported partial improvement of RBD symptoms following continuous positive airway pressure therapy. Lack of therapy with clonazepam resulted in an increased risk of sleep related injuries. Synucleinopathy was frequently diagnosed, even in patients with mild severity or uncommon IRBD presentations (e.g., patients who reported sleeping well, onset triggered by a life event, nocturnal ambulation) indicating that the development of a neurodegenerative disease is independent of the clinical presentation of IRBD.


We report the largest IRBD cohort observed in a single center to date and highlight frequent features that were not reported or not sufficiently emphasized in previous publications. Physicians should be aware of the full clinical expression of IRBD, a sleep disturbance that represents a neurodegenerative disease.


A commentary on this article appears in this issue on page 7.


bed partner; dream-enacting behaviors; idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder; medical consultation; nightmares; sleep quality

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