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WHAT IS REM SLEEP BEHAVIOR DISORDER?

REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is one of the sleep disorders that is classified as a “parasomnia.” A parasomnia involves undesired events that happen while sleeping. RBD occurs during the stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It involves acting out dreams as you sleep. These dreams are often flled with violence and action. Episodes of RBD can cause injury to the dreamer or a bed partner.

KEY POINTS:

  • RBD causes you to act out your dreams during sleep.
  • An RBD episode may include kicking, jumping, punching or shouting.
  • Men who are 50 years of age or older are most likely to have RBD.
  • RBD is more common in people who have Parkinson’s disease.
  • There are medications and safety precautions to treat RBD.
WHAT IS REM SLEEP BEHAVIOR DISORDER

Am I At Risk:

Less than one percent of people have RBD. It is most common in men who are at least 50 years of age. RBD also occurs in older adults who have neurological disorders. It is more common in people who have Parkinson’s disease. People with RBD also may develop Parkinson’s disease later in life. Some medications can trigger episodes of RBD.

GENERAL OVERVIEW

RBD occurs when you act out vivid dreams as you sleep. These dreams are often unpleasant, violent and filled with action. Someone with RBD may kick, jump, punch, yell, or leap out of bed while sleeping. These actions can injure the dreamer or a bed partner. RBD episodes occur during the stage of REM sleep. The first episode of REM sleep usually occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Episodes of REM sleep get longer during the night. REM sleep makes up about 20 to 25 percent of your total sleep.

Unlike sleepwalkers, people who have RBD rarely walk or leave the room during an episode. The dreamer’s eyes usually remain closed when an episode of RBD occurs. At the end of an RBD episode, the dreamer usually awakens quickly and becomes rapidly alert. Most often he will report having a dream with a coherent story. The description of the dream typically matches the behaviors that occurred during sleep.

TREATMENTS:

There are medications that can be used to treat RBD. One option is the sedative clonazepam, which is also used to treat seizures and panic disorder. Another option is melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. A sleep doctor can determine if one of these medications is a good
treatment option for you.

TIPS:

Tips to help you live with RBD include:

  • Create a safe bedroom environment
  • Move furniture, lamps and other objects away from your bedside.

  • Move the bed away from the window.

  • Block your bedroom window with a dresser or another large object.

  • Sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by keeping a regular bedtime and wake time.
  • Avoid alcohol.

Next Steps:

  • Make it a priority to sleep 7 or more hours nightly.
  • Talk to your doctor about any ongoing sleep problems.
  • Tell your doctor about any unusual events that occur while you are sleeping.
  • Your doctor may refer you to an accredited sleep center for help.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: CONTENT DEVELOPED BY THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF SLEEP MEDICINE

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