Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder

Rapid eye movement behavior disorder (RBD) is under the parasomnia category in sleep disorders. It occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a deep sleeping state in which we have our most vivid dreams. Normally during REM sleep, our bodies experience muscle atonia, which is a state of paralysis that keeps our bodies from moving around. People with rapid eye movement behavior disorder have a loss of muscle atonia, which causes them to behave abnormally during sleep. This can cause slight muscle twitching, or sometimes “acting out” their dreams. This can be harmful to the dreamer or the person sleeping next to them.

Symptoms of Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder

  • Moving around a lot during sleep
  • Seeming to act out dreams by kicking, punching, grabbing and even getting out of bed – dream acting out seems violent
  • Being able to remember the dream, but not he physical actions
  • Gaining sleep-related injuries, or causing them to someone else
  • Bed partner becomes frustrated

What Causes Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder?

Rapid eye movement behavior disorder occurs when there is a loss of muscle atonia. This loss doesn’t necessarily have a distinct cause, but there care certain factors that may be responsible. Overall, RBD is more common in males, as studies show that only about 10% of reported cases are female. Rapid eye movement behavior disorder is also linked with other disorders, such as narcolepsy, which is another sleeping disorder. Some people who are having alcohol or drug withdrawals experience RBD as well. The disorder may also have a connection to certain brain injuries or neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. It seems to be more common in elderly people as well, with the typical age of onset being around 60 years old.

Treatment for Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder

Rapid eye movement behavior disorder is treatable, most commonly with medication. The drug clonazepam is very effective in low doses. This medication is responsible for suppressing muscle activity, mimicking the natural state of atonia we experience in sleep. Melatonin is a natural alternative to this medicine. For those affected by Parkinson’s disease other drugs are more suitable. Because the root cause of RBD is a physiological one, medications are the best treatment option.

What Should You Do?

If your RBD is causing tension, injury, or a sleepless night to your loved one, it’s time to seek help. Your doctor can help determine what may be causing the disorder, whether it’s a neurodegenerative disorder, withdrawal, or anything else. You can work together to decide what treatment or medication option works best for you. Then, you and your sleeping partner can both get a good night’s rest.

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