While dreaming is commonly seen as a purely mental activity, people who physically act out their dreams while they’re asleep suffer from REM Behavior Disorder (RBD). Those with RBD may move their limbs or actually get out of bed and engage in activities usually associated with being awake. Some people may even talk loudly or cause injury to themselves while still sleeping. RBD is usually noticed by a bed partner, and fortunately, it can be successfully treated through monitoring by a sleep specialist.
REM and Sleep
Sleep is a complex process that involves transitions between different stages which include wakefulness, rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (N-REM). REM sleep is associated with dreaming, and during this stage, REM Behavior Disorder occurs. Those suffering with RBD lack the muscle paralysis which usually occurs during sleep, allowing them to act out their dreams, sometimes in a dramatic or violent way. It may take years of twitching, talking and jerking while asleep before people with RBD fully act out their dreams.
REM Behavior Disorder Symptoms
During episodes of REM Behavioral Disorder, a person will move their arms and legs or talk during their sleep or get out of bed without realizing they’re dreaming. The only thing they’re aware of is what is happening in their dream.
Causes of REM Behavior Disorder
RBD is a rare disorder and it affects mainly men over the age of 50. It can be caused by adverse reactions to medications or during drug withdrawal. The disorder may be confused with other parasomnias, so only a formal sleep study conducted by a sleep specialist can determine if a person has RBD. In a single night monitoring sleep, brain and muscle activity, the lack of muscle paralysis during REM sleep can eliminate the diagnosis of other parasomnias.
REM Behavior Disorder Treatment
RBD can be treated with sedative medications which can reduce the symptoms or eliminate the disorder 90 percent of the time. Medication administered may include clonazepam, benzodiazepine, antidepressants, or a melatonin supplement. It’s also good practice to keep any breakable or sharp objects out of the bedroom.
REM Behavior Disorder and Parkinson’s Disease
Research has suggested that there is a relationship between RBD and the development of Parkinson’s disease. According to recent studies, approximately 40 percent of individuals who have RBD who were otherwise healthy go on to develop Parkinson’s. The reason for this is unknown, and currently there is no way to prevent or delay the development of Parkinson’s disease.
For more information about REM Behavior Disorder and available treatments, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.