What is REM Sleep Disorder?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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Most individuals experience a deep state of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which dreams occur, the eyes move quickly, and brain activity temporarily paralyzes voluntary muscles. The brains of people who suffer from REM sleep disorder do not effectively signal the nightly paralysis of muscles, often resulting in spasms, thrashing of the legs and arms, and even acting out vivid dreams. Individuals pose a risk to themselves and others due to their violent movements, and many afflicted people experience physical symptoms from not getting enough rest. Doctors can help people with REM sleep disorder by carefully monitoring their symptoms and prescribing medication to help them sleep soundly throughout the night.

Doctors and researchers believe that REM activity comprises about 25 percent of a night's sleep, and is very important in allowing our bodies and minds to recuperate and prepare for another day. Individuals with REM sleep disorder, however, are frequently disturbed by sudden, often violent physical movements. While the condition can affect anyone, it is most common in adult males. People who suffer from Parkinson's disease, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or insomnia are at the greatest risk of developing REM sleep disorders. Some individuals experience symptoms as side effects from antidepressants and other medications.


An individual with REM sleep disorder often tenses up during what should be a very relaxed sleeping state. He or she may begin to move around, kick, punch, or twitch suddenly as their bodies respond to dreams. Many people with REM sleep disorder frequently experience violent dreams and night terrors, in which running, fighting, and screaming are physically acted out in bed. They can easily injure themselves or their partners with no recollection of events the morning after an incident.

A person who suffers from the disorder can usually find relief by visiting a trained physician, who can conduct tests to make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate medications. Many patients are required to sleep in a hospital or research center, where their bodies and brain activity are monitored and recorded by sophisticated clinical equipment. Physicians interpret data from sleep studies to diagnose REM sleep disorder and consider treatment options. The most common and most effective treatment for the disorder is an anti-anxiety medication known as clonazepam, which immediately relieves symptoms and allows patients to experience normal REM sleep.

Symptoms of REM sleep disorder are likely to return if patients go off of their medications. Therefore, it is essential for sufferers to closely follow doctors' orders to prevent recurring episodes. Patients with underlying medical problems, such as Parkinson's disease, may need to take other medications or engage in further treatment to prevent sleeping problems.


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Post 3

While working at a newspaper as a reporter, I did a story on a sleep clinic. I found all of the equipment very interesting. I think many people take the act of sleeping for granted unless they are one of the people who have a sleep disorder.

I was surprised to learn that in the United States about 60 million people experience some type of sleep problems, either chronic or occasional, during an average year. With each passing year, more people appear to be seeking sleep help when they have significant interruptions in their sleep patterns. This is a positive trend since lack of sleep is responsible for so many work related accidents and car accidents.

Post 2

I have a friend who suffers from mild to severe depression. She has trouble with sleep insomnia and when she does fall asleep she often wakes up with panic attacks. This is a tough situation for her because she has gotten to the point that she is afraid to fall asleep. When you don't get enough REM sleep your mind can begin to play tricks on you, and this makes the entire situation even more complicated.

Post 1

There is seldom a dull moment sleeping beside my girlfriend. She snores, not all of time, but sometimes. However, snoring is something I can get used to. It's the talking and screaming in her sleep that bothers me most. I should say that this is not every night. She goes through streaks where she has no outbursts at night, and then she goes through streaks where she may talk and scream in her sleep several nights in a row.

Actually, from my point of view this is not a big issue. I usually wake her when she seems to be having a nightmare, and then we go back to sleep. The problem is that when she wakes in the

morning after an eventful night of dreams she doesn't feel rested. Then she has to go to work tired, and this catches up with her if it goes on for several days. She could use some type of sleep help. I have been considering talking to her about going to a sleep clinic where she can be evaluated.

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