Dream Enactment

There is a sleep disorder characterized by people acting out their dreams known as Rem Behavior Disorder (RBD). Typically, the dreams that are being acted out are violent in nature. Interestingly, these patients are usually very nonviolent. Having this disorder can lead to severe harm, either to the person who has the disorder or to their bed partner. Some patients with RBD have stated that they think they are going “crazy”. Frequently bed partners will have to leave the bedroom for their own safety. Normally, all of our muscles, except the diaphragm and the eye muscles become paralyzed during dream sleep. This prevents us from acting out our dreams. RBD is characterized by a paradoxical ability to move during dream sleep. It is more commonly seen in older men but can occur in either sex at any age. RBD has been associated with alcohol withdrawal, and seen with use of many of the antidepressants now used. 40% of the time it is a predictor of future neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

RBD can be diagnosed in a sleep lab and is quite treatable. If you or a loved one have symptoms of RBD, i.e., usually negative ones which involve kicking, screaming, punching, grabbing, and even jumping out of bed, it would be wise to seek help.