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REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Facts on REM Sleep Disorder

  • Normal sleep has 2 distinct states: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
  • NREM sleep is further subdivided into 3 stages.
  • During REM sleep, rapid eye movements occur, breathing becomes more irregular, blood pressure rises, and there is loss of muscle tone (relative paralysis). However, the brain is highly active, and the electrical activity recorded in the brain by EEG during REM sleep is similar to that recorded during wakefulness. 
  • REM sleep is usually associated with dreaming. REM sleep accounts for 20-25% of the sleep period in most adults.
  • In a person with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), the paralysis that normally occurs during REM sleep is incomplete or absent, allowing the person to "act out" his or her dreams. RBD is classified under the general category of parasomnias.
  • RBD is characterized by the acting out of dreams that are vivid, intense, and sometimes violent. Dream-enacting behaviors include talking, yelling, punching, kicking, sitting, jumping from bed, arm flailing, and grabbing. A common complaint includes a sleep-related injury.
  • An acute form may occur during withdrawal from alcohol or sedative-hypnotic drugs.
  • RBD is usually seen in middle-aged to elderly people (more often in men).
Last Reviewed 12/8/2017
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Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a newly described disorder, recognized as a distinct clinical entity following a series of reports in 1986 of adults with RBD.

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