There has been increasing concern about the long-term impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as evidenced by anecdotal case reports of acute-onset parkinsonism and the polysomnographic feature of increased rapid eye movement sleep electromyographic activity. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and correlates of dream-enactment behaviours, a hallmark of rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder, which is a prodrome of α-synucleinopathy. This online survey was conducted between May and August 2020 in 15 countries/regions targeting adult participants (aged ≥18 years) from the general population with a harmonised structured questionnaire on sleep patterns and disorders, COVID-19 diagnosis and symptoms. We assessed dream-enactment behaviours using the Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behaviour Disorder Single-Question Screen with an additional question on their frequency. Among 26,539 respondents, 21,870 (82.2%) answered all items that were analysed in this study (mean [SD] age 41.6 [15.8] years; female sex 65.5%). The weighted prevalence of lifetime and weekly dream-enactment behaviours was 19.4% and 3.1% and were found to be 1.8- and 2.9-times higher in COVID-19-positive cases, respectively. Both lifetime and weekly dream-enactment behaviours were associated with young age, male sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, higher physical activity level, nightmares, COVID-19 diagnosis, olfactory impairment, obstructive sleep apnea symptoms, mood, and post-traumatic stress disorder features. Among COVID-19-positive cases, weekly dream-enactment behaviours were positively associated with the severity of COVID-19. Dream-enactment behaviours are common among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic and further increase among patients with COVID-19. Further studies are needed to investigate the potential neurodegenerative effect of COVID-19.
Keywords: coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); dream-enactment behaviour; neurodegeneration; prevalence; rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD).
© 2022 European Sleep Research Society.