REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Do you often act out your dreams? If so, you may have REM sleep behavior disorder. But, what is REM sleep behavior disorder exactly, what are its symptoms and causes, is there any treatment for this disorder?
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Read our article to learn more about this type of sleep disorder. Last updated
What Is REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder is a type of parasomnia which causes you to act out your dreams while you sleep.
These dreams are usually very vivid, full of action and can involve a wide range of movements and you can recall them upon waking. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder occurs when you act out these vivid dreams.
During a typical night’s sleep, you enter the REM stage of sleep some 90 minutes after falling asleep. You cycle in and out of this stage of sleep a few times during the night and spend approximately 20% of your sleep in REM sleep.
This stage of sleep is also where dreams occur. Also, during REM sleep your body (muscles, arms, legs, etc.) is usually paralyzed and unable to move temporarily. However, people who have REM sleep behavior disorder experience the opposite and act out their dreams instead of being temporarily paralyzed and may also talk in their sleep.
REM sleep behavior disorder is not so common and occurs in less than 1% of the population. It can affect both men and women and can sometimes be confused with some other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking and night terrors.
Early episodes of REM sleep behavior disorder usually involve mild activity while later episodes can be more violent and can get worse over time.
What Are the Symptoms of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
There are various symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder. They may include some minor movements of the limbs or more pronounced body movements such as kicking, punching, sitting up in bed, flailing, jumping out of bed while still asleep.
People suffering from REM sleep behavior disorder may also talk, yell or scream in their sleep or perform some other sleep activities that may result in an injury to them or their bed partner.
They aren’t aware of their actions during these episodes and may find out that they have this disorder only when someone tells them about their symptoms.
Those experiencing an episode of REM sleep behavior disorder can be awoken pretty easily and when they wake up they aren’t confused and are usually alert and coherent and can remember their dreams clearly.
What Are the Risks of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
If you have REM sleep behavior disorder, you are at a higher risk of developing narcolepsy, which causes excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks and uncontrollable bouts of falling asleep at any time during the day.
You may also be at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, which is a brain disease that leads to tremors and moving and walking difficulties.
You may also develop periodic limb movement, which causes cramping and makes you jerk of your legs during sleep and sleep apnea, which causes you to periodically stop breathing during your sleep.
What Causes REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
When you sleep, you go through various stages of sleep and one of them is REM sleep. As we have already mentioned, this stage of sleep is associated with dreams and while you are in REM stage of sleep, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams and hurting yourself.
But, in some cases, the chemical responsible for keeping your body still during REM stage of sleep may not function properly and as a result you may develop REM sleep behavior disorder and some other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, narcolepsy, etc.
How Is REM Sleep Disorder Diagnosed?
REM sleep behavior disorder can get worse over time and may put you and your partner in danger. That’s why you should seek your doctor’s advice if you suspect that you might have this disorder.
To diagnose REM sleep behavior disorder, you doctor may ask you various questions about your medical and family history and perform certain exams, including a neurologic exam as well.
You may also be asked to complete a sleep diary or perform a polysomnogram or the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. You should also inform your doctor if you use any drugs, alcohol or medications and if you have ever had any other sleep disorder.
REM Sleep Disorder Treatments
This sleep disorder can be successfully managed in most cases with certain medications and sleep supplements such as melatonin.
To protect yourself and your bed partner, you may also be asked to do the following:
- Move your bed away from the window
- Move objects away from your bedside
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule (go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends)
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime and mixing it with certain medications
- Treat any underlying sleep disorders that may contribute to the appearance of REM sleep behavior disorder, etc.
Contrary to the REM sleep behavior disorder we have sleep paralysis. Read our article: What Is Sleep Paralysis? to learn more about this sleep disorder.
REM sleep behavior disorder is a type of parasomnia characterized by vivid dreams and acting out these dreams.
It’s not very common and occurs in 1% of the population, but it occurs equally in men and women and usually gets worse as the time passes.
It may be triggered by various factors and cause you to jump or sit in your bed, kick, punch, shout, cry, etc. and sometimes even put you or your bed partner in danger.
This is why you should visit your doctor if you suspect that you might have REM sleep behavior disorder. They will ask you about your medical and family history and perform certain tests to diagnose this disorder and come up with the right treatment for you.