What is REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
There are four different stages of sleep that everyone should go through when we sleep at night.
- Non-REM stage 1
- Non-REM stage 2
- Non-REM stage 3
- REM sleep
The defining characteristic of Non-REM stage 1 and 2 is light sleep.
The difference is that in Non–REM stage 1, the person can easily be woken up, while in Non-REM stage 2, there may be some difficulty to wake up since the body is preparing to go into the next stage. The following is deep sleep or Non-REM stage 3.
At this level, the body does not react to any stimuli in the surroundings, such as noise and movements. As the sleep cycle progresses further, the body enters the final stage, the REM sleep. Basically, the defining feature of this stage is that the eyes move rapidly while the body remains at rest. In REM stage, vivid dreams occur. Sleep permits people to dream and dreaming is considered a mental activity. However, there are some individuals who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder.
The REM sleep behavior disorder belongs to a collective group of sleep disorders called parasomnias.
Parasomnias can happen in both non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
What is REM sleep behavior disorder? It refers to the uncommon movements or behaviors exhibited during the REM sleep stage. It is similar to Non-REM sleep arousal disorder except that the Non-REM sleep arousal disorder happens during the Non-REM sleep stage. The person is half-asleep and half-awake, but they are able to perform activities without deliberate intention or knowledge of the activities that he or she is doing.
In this stage, the body does not move when having a vivid dream or nightmare, but with REM sleep behavior disorder, the body engages physically by acting out the scenes that are happening in their dream or nightmare. The behavior exhibited in relation to the disorder varies and can be as simple as talking in sleep, walking, and laughing. In addition, it can progress to worse conditions and could cause injuries, like hitting someone when sleeping or grabbing one’s partner.
If a person is suffering from this disorder, he or she is not fully aware or conscious of acting out these behaviors while asleep. The person with REM sleep behavior disorder is reacting to what is happening in his dream or nightmare. All the sensations that are felt during an episode are perceived only in the dream. However, this condition can be annoying to one’s partner, disturbing their sleep.
Anyone sharing a bed with someone experiencing this behavior disorder could get injured if the dream turns out to be aggressive, resulting in violent behavior. The violent acts could be hitting someone when sleeping, grabbing the hair, and many others.
Sleep disorders can develop for a variety of reasons, like genetics, change of sleeping habits, and certain medications. People suffering from this disorder should seek medical treatment if the episodes are becoming more frequent. Especially if it’s disrupting daily waking life. Another important reason to speak with a medical professional is if the sleep behavior disorder is hindering his or her partner from getting enough sleep or causing them physical pain.