Those who are familiar with their sleep patterns will likely know what rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is. They will also know that REM sleep is essential for getting a good night’s rest, and that it occurs incrementally throughout your sleep cycle. However, what they may not know is that it is very possible for REM sleep to get interrupted by an irregular behavior called REM behavior disorder (RBD).
REM behavior disorder, much like other sleep disorders like narcolepsy and parasomnias, breaks down the barriers between different phases of the sleep cycle. In other words, other states of the sleep cycle interrupt the REM phase, leading to less restful sleep and accidental bouts of violence. In fact, the disorder was not understood until recently, when scientists performed sleep studies on animals to confirm its existence. Take a look at some of the symptoms and causes of REM behavior disorder below, and what treatments you can pursue if you believe that you are suffering from this condition.
What Causes REM Behavior Disorder?
Most people experience muscle paralysis in their sleep, particularly if they are having a dramatic or violent dream. However, a person with REM behavior disorder does not experience this muscle paralysis, and may act out their dreams during the REM stage of sleep. It is common for people with RBD to talk and jerk during their dreams, and in some cases they may act them out completely. While acting out their dreams, people can injure themselves or the person they are sleeping with, making this particular disorder potentially dangerous if not properly treated.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of REM behavior disorder is unknown, although it has been linked to neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy (MSA). However, in the majority of people who have RBD, there is no link between the two. The general cause has been found to be a lesion on certain parts of the brain in sleep studies using animals.
What Treatment Should You Seek?
REM behavior disorder is a complex sleep disorder that is not very well-understood. Fortunately, there is a medication that reduces or eliminates the disorder in approximately 90% of cases.
This drug is called Clonazepam, and is known commercially as Klonopin. Clonazepam is a sedative that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, and most people don’t develop a gradual resistance to the drug.
If you or your sleep partner have noticed a pattern of behavior that resembles REM behavior disorder, schedule a sleep study with a medical professional today. In the meantime, remove all potential dangers from the bedroom, and make sure that you have plenty of space to sleep safely.