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Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Jun 7th 2016

What is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • repeated episodes of loud talking, yelling or screaming; and/or kicking, punching, jumping out of bed, etc. while asleep. The person's eyes are typically closed when this is happening.
  • these behaviors happen during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - usually about 90 minutes after the person falls asleep. They are more frequent during the latter part of the night's sleep. They do not usually happen during daytime naps.
  • when the person wakes up afterwards, they are completely alert and not confused.
  • these issues cause stress in the person's life or trouble at work, in relationships with others, or other daily activities. This can include injury to the person or their bed partner.
  • the issues are not caused by a substance (medication or drug of abuse) or another medical or mental health condition.

How common is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?

This condition happens to less than 0.5% of the general population. It may be slightly more common in those with a psychiatric condition possibly because of the medications that they take.

The condition can start gradually over time or very suddenly. It typically affects men over 50 years of age, but is becoming more common in females and younger people.

What are the risk factors for Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?

Many widely used medications, including antidepressants and beta blockers (used for heart conditions) can result in these symptoms occurring.

What other disorders or conditions often occur with Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder?

Approximately 30% of people who have narcolepsy will also have this condition. Many people with this condition will also go on to develop a brain disorder such as Parkinson's or other conditions that affect the signals that the brain sends to the body.

How is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder treated?

Treatments for this condition include taking steps to protect physical safety including removing any dangerous items from the bedroom, moving furniture or padding the area near the bed, and protecting windows or doors.

Melatonin (a dietary supplement) or an anti-anxiety medication may also be used.


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