REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a sleep disorder that causes you to act out your dreams while sleeping.

REM-sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) is the stage of sleep where dreaming usually occurs. Normally, when we sleep, our brain sends out signals, ordering our muscles to relax. This prevents us from being able to move our muscles while sleeping, our muscles are in a temporary state of paralysis. However, this seems to go awry in people with RBD, causing them to move during sleep. Their dreams are often vivid and even violent.

Over time, RBD tends to get worse. This can result in injury, affecting either the person dreaming or its partner. The actions of a person with RBD resemble its actions in the current dream in detail. Common actions include screaming, kicking, punching, jumping, and running. Usually, the subject’s eyes are closed the whole time, separating this disorder from sleepwalking, to which it is often confused with.

As REM-sleep stages occur approximately every 90 minutes during sleep, REM behavior usually takes place at least one and a half-hour after the subject falls asleep. The episodes can occur up to four times in a single night but are also known to happen less frequently, such as weekly or monthly.

RBD can appear at any age, although it is the most likely to appear after the age of 50. It is more common among men and people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease or MSA (Multiple system atrophy). RBD does usually not cause daytime sleepiness, but other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may follow and cause such symptoms.

It is recommended that people who suffer from RBD keep a consistent sleep schedule and avoid consuming alcohol before sleep, as it can increase the symptoms.

As the symptoms of RBD usually get worse over time, you might want to see a doctor if you think you suffer from the disorder.

References and further information can be found on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s website: