Dementia severity and Lewy bodies affect circadian rhythms in Alzheimer disease

Author(s): Harper DG, Stopa EG, McKee AC, Satlin A, Fish D, et al.


Sleep disturbance is a symptom shared by all neurodegenerative, dementing illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and its presence frequently precipitates decisions to seek institutional care for patients. Although the sleep disturbances of AD and DLB are qualitatively similar, they appear to be more prominent in patients with DLB. Disturbance of the circadian rhythm has been noted and is a potential factor underlying the nocturnal sleep fragmentation and daytime sleepiness observed in these patients. We studied the circadian variation of core-body temperature and motor activity in a total of 32 institutionalized patients with probable AD by NINCDS-ADRDA criteria, 9 of whom also met pathologic criteria for DLB. Eight, healthy, elderly male controls were studied on a clinical research unit designed to simulate the hospital environment where the dementia patients were studied. Circadian variables generally had greater deviations from normal associated with increasing AD pathology, as measured by postmortem-determined Braak stage, supporting the hypothesis that central changes mediate circadian disturbances in AD and DLB. Patients with a postmortem diagnosis of DLB manifested greater disturbances of locomotor activity circadian rhythms than patients with AD, possibly reflecting the greater sleep disturbances seen in this population, but the differences from normal in the circadian rhythms of the AD and DLB patients were qualitatively similar.

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