Have you ever physically acted out your dreams, injured yourself and/or your sleeping partner, leapt out of the bed, had frightening dreams, kicked, punched, or ran in your sleep? If any of these sounds familiar you could be suffering from REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD). People with RBD attempt to act out their dreams, which often times are violent in nature.
We typically can’t act out our dreams. The majority of people dream around 4-6 times per night during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, the brain becomes as active during this stage as it is when you’re awake. Although the neurons in the brain during REM sleep are functioning as much as they do when you’re awake, REM sleep is also characterized by temporary muscle paralysis. Most people, even when they are having vivid, active dreams, their bodies are still. But, people with RBD are lacking this muscle paralysis, allowing them to act out the contents of their dreams.
RBD can begin by talking, twitching, and jerking while dreaming up to years before a person begins fully acting out their dreams. The risk of developing RBD increases with age and men are more likely to develop RBD than women. For about 55% of people the cause for RBD is unknown, and the other 45% is linked with alcohol or sedative-hypnotic withdrawal, antidepressants, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors. RBD also often precedes the development of some neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and multisystem atrophy; however, not all people with RBD with develop a neurodegenerative disease. People with RBD should consult with a doctor about their problems and can begin medication if needed to treat RBD. Patients will also be encouraged to make their sleeping environment as safe as possible by removing all sharp and breakable objects and ensuring all windows and doors are locked.
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