Have you ever had a dream in which you were physically fighting with someone or something else? Usually when we have dreams like this, our bodies remain still even though we have a mental image of us being physically active. Those who suffer from REM Behavior Disorder may not experience this kind of dream the same way though.
REM Behavior Disorder causes people to physically move or even engage in the actions that they are associating with their dreams. If they are experiencing a violent dream, they may jump out of bed or start kicking, punching, hitting, talking, and screaming. This can be very scary for their partner, and sometimes they become victims to the dangerous behavior of the person suffering from RBD. REM Behavior Disorder is usually noticed when it causes a hazard to the partner or to the person with RBD, as their behavior can even cause self-injury!
REM Behavior disorder occurs during the REM stage of sleep, in which dreaming takes place. It is important to understand that during REM sleep, our brains are functioning as if we were awake, but our bodies remain in a state of muscle paralysis. Those who suffer from RBD lack this muscle paralysis, causing them to become physically active during their dreams.
During their REM sleep, those with RBD may get out of bed and act out their dreams, but they will not wake up or realize their dreaming while it’s happening. The only feeling and perception they have is what is currently happening in their dream, which is why violent dreams can cause injuries to themselves and their loved ones.
So how can you spot this disorder before you or your loved one gets seriously hurt? People with REM Behavior Disorder usually begin speaking, twitching and jerking in their sleep years before they begin to fully act out their dreams. More than 90% of RBD patients are male. The disorder usually begins after the age of 50, but there have been cases in which children as young as 9 years old had RBD. Most people with RBD are good-natured during the day and only act out of line when they are dreaming.
People who think they may be suffering from RBD need to be diagnosed by a professional. Sleep centers can conduct sleep tests in order to determine the parasomnia that is causing the behavior. Usually just one night of monitoring brain and muscle activity will be able to see if there is a lack of muscle paralysis, eliminating other parasomnias.
If you have had any experiences with RBD, please feel free to share them in the comments below!