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30 Jan 2012

Why do Some People Kick, Punch or Yell During Their Sleep?

Sometimes we wish our dreams took place in real life. While most of us experiences dreaming in a manner similar to watching a movie, some people 'act out' their dreams while still fast asleep.

A condition known as the REM sleep behaviour disorder, it is a disturbing sleep disorder. It poses a risk of injury to self or bed partner, and even be an early sign of a neurological disorder.

REM sleep behaviour disorder
Rapid Eye Movement sleep or REM sleep is a stage of deep sleep that involves heightened brain activity. Because the brain waves are similar to the pattern when you are awake, it is also known as paradoxical sleep. During this active sleep, our muscles remain paralyzed. This prevents us from 'acting out' our dreams. In REM sleep behaviour disorder, this paralysis is absent or incomplete, making us play the roles portrayed in our dreams.

Symptoms of REM sleep behaviour disorder
Dream enacting behaviour is the main symptom. Yelling, Punching, Kicking, Jumping or any other movement involving muscular activity can be a symptom. When awaken, the person can't remember what he or she was doing, but can clearly remember the dream responsible for the action.

What are the causes?
In 55 percent, the cause is unknown. 45 percent it is related to alcohol or withdrawal of a sedative drug. Various studies have linked REM sleep behaviour disorder to Parkinson's disease. One third developed Parkinson's disease after 12 to 13 years.

What can you do about it?
If you think you have REM sleep behaviour disorder, then talk to your doctor. Based on your symptoms you maybe referred to a neurologist. Few other conditions such as night terrors, nocturnal seizures, obstructive sleep apnoea can mimic REM sleep behaviour disorder.

You can remove furniture or other objects that can cause injury. Put a cushion or mattress on the floor if you have a tendency to jump off the bed. Ask your bed partner to sleep separately if symptoms are severe.

Benzodiazepines or anti-depressants can relive the symptoms without much trouble. But you need to follow up to screen for any neurological disorders that might appear in future.