What is REM sleep disorder? The full name for the REM sleep disorder is REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder and it's a sleep disorder where an individual acts out their dreams while sleeping. REM, which stands for rapid eye movement, is so called because of the fast back and forth movement of a sleeper's eyes underneath their eyelids while they are in this stage of sleep. It's during this stage of sleep, called REM sleep, that dreaming occurs. Therefore, it's also during this stage of sleep that symptoms of this R.E.M. sleep disorder present themselves. These symptoms are physical in nature and can turn violent depending on the dream and severity of the disorder.
So what are the symptoms of this R.E.M. sleep disorder? Really, there is only one symptom of REM sleep behavior disorder - a loss of muscle paralysis. In normal, healthy sleepers, when they enter the stage of sleep known as REM sleep, their bodies go into a state of paralysis. It's this paralysis that stops a healthy sleeper from physically acting out their dreams, twitching and / or punching and kicking while sleeping. It's the opposite for someone suffering from this REM sleep disorder. These people can actually injure themselves or their partners while they sleep. They could do this by punching or kicking while they are asleep and dreaming.
When the individual awakens after an episode, they may remember what happened in their dream. And, they can usually put together their actions as they match the dream they just awoke out of. They will not, however, remember that they were moving.
The cause for REM sleep behaviour disorder is not entirely known. It is thought that it could be an adverse effect to certain drugs or even something that occurs from a withdrawal from drugs - including alcohol. Although we don't know the exact cause of this R.E.M. sleep disorder, we do know that it occurs most often in the elderly and with people suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple System Atrophy and Parkinson's.
There are 2 treatments for an individual that has this REM sleep disorder. The individual may be prescribed Clonazepam, which is thought to reduce muscle activity during sleep. For people with neurodegenerative disorders, Pramipexole and Levodopa has proven to be fairly successful. However, melatonin has also proven its effectiveness and if you suffer from REM sleep behaviour disorder, ask your doctor about melatonin - a natural choice - before opting for the prescription medicines.
There are some ways an individual can prevent or minimize injuries from this R.E.M. sleep disorder. If they sleep alone, they can get padded rails on their bed to prevent falls or they could lay pillows or cushions on the floor. If they sleep with a partner, they could ask their partner to sleep on the sofa in the event that their episodes become violent.
Since we enter into REM sleep up to four times per night, it's possible for someone suffering from REM sleep behaviour disorder to have 4 or more episodes per night - depending on the frequency of dreams.
If you or your bed partner thinks that you suffer from this R.E.M. sleep disorder, consult your doctor and have them recommend further testing to see what can be done to alleviate or cure the condition.