REM sleep behavior disorder could lead to dementia

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Many doctors say sleep loss is one of the biggest public health hazards facing Americans today. It leads to accidents, illness and death.

Each year, at least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Some of them you may not have even heard of, but learning the signs can help you get the treatment you need.

Their careers as internationally renowned hair stylists took John and Suzanne Chadwick around the world.

"It's been quite a journey!" said Suzanne Chadwick.

But few people knew of the rare condition that plagued for years. While John slept, he acted out his dreams, punching, kicking and even biting.

"One night, he bit me, and that, the bite mark lasted for two days," said Suzanne.

It got so bad that he would tie himself to the bed.

"You think, 'What in the hell's gonna happen to me?' What have I got?" said John.

John had REM sleep behavior disorder or RBD. It causes violent episodes and puts patients at risk for other problems. Within 10 years, up to 80 percent may develop Parkinson's and dementia.

"It's kind of a window into an evolving neurodegenerative disease," said Dr. Alon Avidan.

Another bizarre condition: sleep eating, which affects up to 1 million adults. People prepare and consume meals while they are sleeping.

"We've heard of patients preparing a cat food sandwich or eating directly out of a jar of mayonnaise," said Dr. Avidan.

For RBD and sleep eating, taking clonazepam and melatonin can help.

John went from five extreme episodes a week to one mild event a month. Now, nothing holds him back - day or night.

"(I) sleep like a log tonight and be ready and start work tomorrow," said John.

Some antidepressants can trigger RBD, while caffeine and alcohol consumption can make symptoms worse.

Doctor Avidan says even just one violent episode of RBD is cause for concern.

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