Nightmares commonly affect children and adolescents and decrease in frequency and intensity as an individual grows older (AASM, 2005). Drugs and alcohol can trigger nightmares. Prevalence rates are also higher in individuals suffering from acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Individuals suffering from dementia commonly experience sleep abnormalities. Although there are a variety of conditions associated with dementia—Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, Huntington’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease—there are some common patterns of sleep impairment associated with all dementias. Typically, sleep is more fragmented, leading to more awakenings and consequently less time asleep, and REM may be decreased (Petit et al., 2005). These sleep impairments usually worsen as the disease progresses.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by memory loss and an intellectual decline that progresses with age and is caused by the degeneration of neurons in the brain. It is estimated that about 4 million individuals in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately one-quarter of these individuals have sleep disturbances (Tractenberg et al., 2005; Moran et al., 2005). Alzheimer’s disease causes an increase number of arousals and affects an individual’s sleep architecture. As a result of an increase in duration and number of awakenings, individuals spend an increased percentage of time in stage 1 sleep and a reduced percentage in stage 2 and SWS (Prinz et al., 1982a,b; Reynolds et al., 1985; Montplaisir et al., 1995).
There is limited information regarding the etiology of sleep disorders associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that cause dementia. Associations with sleep disturbance and other behavioral symptoms have been identified, including aggressiveness (Moran et al., 2005) and depression (Tractenberg et al., 2005). However, the pathophysiology of this association is not known. In addition to behavioral symptoms, OSA may also occur at a higher prevalence in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease than in the general population (Bliwise, 2002).