If You Do This When You Sleep, Talk to Your Doctor, Study Says
This sleep behavior disorder sign could put you and your bed partner's health at risk.
Regardless of what time you wake up, you may always be aware of how well you slept. From an unpleasant dream to constant tossing and turning, there may be a lot of things from an uncomfortable night that stick in your mind. However, there may also be many moments when you're fully asleep and completely unaware of your own sleep behavior. Aside from the occasional snoring or mumbles at three in the morning, some nighttime patterns could be cause for concern. Research has shown that certain sleep behaviors can say a lot about your wellbeing. In fact, there's one in particular that you should speak to a doctor about. For the sleep activity that could be hurting you and your bed partner's personal health, read on.
Physically reenacting your dreams with movements and noises could be a sign of rapid eye movement sleep disorder.
While you may not realize it, the quality of your sleep could mean more than you think. As noted by the Cleveland Clinic, when you're having an extremely vivid dream, you're in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—which can occur up to an hour and a half after you've fallen asleep. REM sleep is also when your brain activity increases the most but you're not deeply asleep, which is why such intense dreams can occur.
Despite the fact that these dreams aren't real, how you behave during them could be a sign of a bigger health issue. If those around you have come to notice that you're making a lot of movements and loud noises when you sleep, this could be a sign of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).
According to the Sleep Foundation, REM sleep behavior disorder is relatively rare and most often occurs in adults over 50 years old. Even so, there are still particular symptoms, such as making noises and movements in your sleep, that you should be aware of that can tip you off to this condition. Some of these include screaming and talking or kicking and punching during a dream, as a way of reenacting it.
Men's symptoms of RBD are much different than women's.
Research has continued to look at RBD and how it can affect both genders in a variety of ways. In a 2016 study published in Sleep, doctors set out to discover the genetics behind idiopathic RBD (IRBD) by looking at a clinical history of 203 patients who were diagnosed with the condition between 1990 and 2014. Patients received their diagnoses based on a wide range of criteria, such as a history of re-enacting their dreams and an absence of neurodegenerative disease. Prior to this diagnosis, many of the patients' bed partners also encouraged them to seek out medical attention.
Throughout this study, there proved to be a significant difference when it came to the sex of the patients. Out of the 203 patients, 162 were men and only 41 were women, with a median age of 68 years old during the time of their diagnosis. Results found that the symptoms of the IRBD are very different in each gender, as well. Compared to women, men most often reported punching and cursing during their sleep, due to so much action going on in their dreams. On the opposite side of the coin, women didn't have nearly as aggressive behaviors and reported dreaming about their children being in life-threatening situations.
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RBD could be a sign of different medical condition.
Although this isn't always the case, symptoms of RBD could be a sign of another medical condition. In fact, research has shown that acting out your dreams could be a sign of Parkinson's, a disease of the progressive nervous system that causes damage in the brain and impacts movement.
Back in 2015, in a study published in Neurology, researchers examined 89 patients with IRBD to see if the condition could be a marker for Parkinson's disease. Over 10 years, patients were annually assessed and completed evaluations, in an effort to discover who was at the highest risk of developing Parkinson's. Findings showed that 30 percent of participants developed a neurodegenerative disease three years into the study. By the seventh year, 66 percent of IRBD patients had a neurodegenerative disease.
Give yourself the opportunity to seek out medical attention and treatment options.
While no one manages their symptoms in the exact same way, there are multiple forms of treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may recommend some simple changes to your sleeping environment to keep you and your bed partner physically safe. For example, they may suggest putting barriers on the side of the bed or padding on the floor.
Aside from changing some sleeping habits, there are medications that can help you rest easier at night. Clonazepam is most commonly used and has been quite effective in reducing symptoms of RBD. This isn't the only medication out there, however. "Doctors continue to study several other medications that may treat REM sleep behavior disorder," the Mayo Clinic says. "Talk with your doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment option for you.