REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM sleep behavior disorder is a type of disorder that causes unpleasant dreams and abnormal behavior while sleeping. It is particularly related to REM sleep, or rapid eye movement, which is a certain phase of sleeping. REM sleep accounts for approximately 20 percent of sleep, and is usually when a person dreams.

The episodes involved in REM Sleep Behavior Disorder are often sudden and can happen once in a while or nearly every night. The disorder can also get progressively worse without proper treatment. The behaviors can range from mild muscle twitching to acting out violently during sleep.

What Causes REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?

While there is not a single known cause of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, there are some conditions that are linked to people who have it. If you have diffuse Lewy body dementia, Shy-Drager syndrome, multisystem atrophy, or Parkinson’s disease, you are more likely to have this sleep disorder.

In a little over half of the people with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, the cause is not known and doctors never figure it out. About 45 percent of people show a cause associated to other risk factors, such as taking a tricyclic antidepressant, using serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or having withdrawal from alcohol or narcotics, according to WebMd.

How Do You Know You Have It?

There are a few common signs and symptoms that will pinpoint toward having REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. With this disorder, you react physically with your arms and legs, instead of going through normal paralysis like others do. Therefore, common symptoms include flailing, jumping, kicking or punching during sleep, and having violent or action-filled dreams that spark these reactions. You may also make noises, including profanity, crying, talking, shouting or laughing. If you wake up, and someone has said you were making noises or being physical, but you do not remember the dream, that is another sign you have this disorder.

How is it Diagnosed?

If you think you might have REM Sleep Behavior Disorder based on the symptoms, it is time to see a doctor or sleep specialist. He or she will perform a physical exam and ask about the symptoms you are experiencing. There are also some tests that can be ordered, such as a neurological exam and a sleep study, also called a polysomnogram. The sleep study may be performed in a sleep lab.

To be diagnosed with this condition, you will need to fit certain criteria, such as having several periods of kicking or physical behavior during REM sleep, performed a sleep study to look at your muscle activity, and being disoriented or confused when waking from these types of dreams.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Medications are typically the first way to treat REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. The most common medication to prescribe is Clonazepam, which is a type of benzodiazepine. This is a good option for anyone because it is not connected to addiction or tolerance. Some protection should also be in place, such as padding the floor, protecting the windows, having barriers on the side of the bed, and removing all dangerous objects that might be nearby.

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