Monday, January 23, 2012

New Treatment for REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) is a form of sleepwalking where patients will enact their dream while asleep. This dream enactment behavior is not normal, as usually we are completely paralyzed while dreaming. If RBD occurs, patients can accidentally hurt themselves or their bedpartner while sleeping. RBD can occur during certain neurological disorders like Parkinson's Disease. RBD usually responds to a medication called Klonopin, but not every patient finds it beneficial.

A study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine about a non-medicine treatment of RBD. The study authors note that some patients with RBD wake up easily to bedpartners voice when they start moving while dreaming. This stops the potentially injurious behavior and results from the fact that dream (or REM) sleep is a very light stage of sleep, and all of us are easily awoken from that stage of sleep.

In this study, researchers attached a bed alarm to the torso's of four patients with RBD. When the patient tried to sit up while dreaming, the alarm was triggered and a taped recording of the bed partner's voice would calmly tell them to wake up. The results showed that all four patients had a dramatic reduction in dream related behaviors and injury. None of the patients felt it was a burden to use the alarm and they felt it reduced their anxiety about going to bed because they knew they would not likely hurt themselves or their bedpartner while asleep.

This form of therapy would not work in traditional sleepwalking, which occurs out of slow wave (or deep) sleep. In fact, such an alarm is likely to worsen traditional sleepwalking. Therefore, it would be best to use it only for RBD.

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