THE BOTTOM LINE
- REM-sleep behavior disorder causes you to act out your dreams in real life
- Body movements such as thrashing can lead to injury to you or your bedmate
- Your doctor may recommend medications that can reduce or eliminate symptoms
One of the things that occur during REM sleep is that your brain temporarily paralyzes your muscles so you’re unable to act out your dreams. This process does not take place in people who suffer from REM-sleep behavior disorder, and therefore you will be able to react to your dream in real life. It might look like this:
Body movements such as thrashing, kicking, punching, flailing
Vocalizations such as talking, screaming, laughing, groaning
Being able to remember your dream if you are woken up during the episode
This parasomnia typically affects older adults (over age 50) and onset is often very gradual, getting worse over time.
How common is REM-sleep behaviour disorder?
Can it impact my health?
The most likely way this parasomnia can impact your health would be by injuring yourself (commonly happens by falling out of bed or reacting violently to a bedmate). Injuries are generally due to a lack of awareness of your surroundings outside of what you’re experiencing in your dream.
What causes REM-sleep behaviour disorder?
Your brain uses your nerve pathways to communicate to your muscles when it’s time to induce temporary paralysis during REM sleep. If these nerve pathways become damaged or no longer work it can cause REM-sleep behavior disorder.
Being over the age of 50
Having neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, Lewy body dementia, or multiple system atrophy
Can it be treated?
You might want to speak to your doctor about the possibility of medications that could be used to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of REM-sleep behavior disorder.
In the meantime, here are some tips you could use to make your sleep environment safer during a REM-sleep behavior disorder episode:
Placing a thick rug or floor pad beside your bed
Placing bed rails or barriers on the side of your bed
Remove any dangerous objects or clutter away from your bed
In addition to this, you may want to consider sleeping in a separate room from your bedmate to avoid causing injuries.