Have you ever suffered such an experience: when you fall asleep, you physically act out your dreams especially the nightmares? For example, when you dream about someone chasing you, you might jump out of your bed to run away. After waking up, you could still remember the details that happened in your dream. If you are always troubled with such suffering, you probably have a REM sleep disorder.
What is REM sleep disorder?
During sleep, your brain moves through several different stages. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is one of the stages, in which your eyes move around rapidly in a range of directions and most of your dreams occur in this period.
REM sleep disorder refers to the sleep disorder in which you physically act out vivid, usually unpleasant dreams with vocal sounds and sudden, often violent arm and leg movements during REM sleep — sometimes called dream-enacting behavior.
Someone with RBD (REM sleep behavior disorder) may:
- Kick, punch, flail arm, or jump from bed, in response to action-filled or violent dreams, such as being chased or defending yourself from an attack
- Create noises, such as talking, laughing, shouting, emotional outcries, or even cursing
- Be able to recall the dream if you awaken during the episode
- Conduct some sleep actions that result in an injury to them or their bed partners
How common is REM sleep behavior disorder?
This sleep disorder is relatively rare, affecting between 0.5 to 1 percent of adults. It is more common in men and adults over age 50. People who have a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple system atrophy might be at high risk of REM sleep behavior disorder as well.
What causes REM sleep disorder?
The exact cause of RBD is unknown. Animal studies suggest that it has to do with certain neural pathways in the brain. During normal REM, nerve pathways in the brain that prevents muscles from moving are active, which could keep your body temporarily “paralysis”. However, with RBD, these pathways might no longer work and you may physically act out your dreams.
Risk factors for RBD may include:
- Being male and over 50 years old
- Some neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, or multiple system atrophy
- Sleep or REM sleep deprivation
- Other sleep disorders (such as narcolepsy)
- Use or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol
How do I stop REM sleep disorder?
The treatment for it is tailored to an individual and may involve a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
1. Lifestyle changes
A good lifestyle is conducive to improving the quality of sleep and decreasing the risk of suffering RBD.
There are some tips for you:
- Maintain a consistent and healthy sleep schedule
- Avoid certain medications and alcohol
- Regular monitor your sleep conditions by some sleep apps (such as ShutEye)
- Creating a safe sleeping environment for avoiding any injury caused by RBD
A number of medications have proven effective in cases of RBD depending on which symptoms present. Currently, two main drugs are used to effectively treat RBD including melatonin and clonazepam.
Before taking any medication, you’d better consult a doctor. They can best advise you on a treatment plan based on your medical history and symptoms.
If you believe you or your loved one may have REM sleep behavior disorder, it is best to tell your doctor.
To sum up, the REM sleep disorder is a condition in which a person can not completely shut down muscle movement and performs the action in their dreams.
Though it is relatively uncommon in our life, it is associated closely with our sleep quality, which should not be ignored. By adopting proper treatment including lifestyle adjustments and medication, we could reduce the potential risk of suffering this sleep disorder and the injury it might cause.
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