No matter what time you wake up, you can always be aware of how well you slept. From an uncomfortable dream to constantly tossing and turning, there can be many things out of an uncomfortable night that will stay with you. However, there can also be many moments when you are fully asleep and are unaware of your own sleeping patterns. Aside from the occasional three a.m. snoring or mumbling, some nighttime patterns can be cause for concern. Research has shown that certain sleeping habits can tell a lot about your well-being. In fact, there is one particular one that you should speak to a doctor about. Read on to learn what sleep activity could be affecting you and your bed partner’s health.
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Even though you may not know, the quality of your sleep can mean more than you think. As noted by the Cleveland Clinic, when you have an extremely vivid dream, you are in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep–which can occur up to an hour and a half after falling asleep. REM sleep is also when your brain activity is spinning at its highest but you are not sleeping deeply, which is why such intense dreams can occur.
Despite the fact that these dreams are not real, your behavior during this time could be a sign of a bigger health problem. If those around you have noticed that you are making lots of movements and making loud noises while you sleep, it could be a sign of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).
According to the Sleep Foundation, REM sleep behavior disorder is relatively rare and is most common in adults over the age of 50. Even so, there are certain symptoms, such as noises and movements during sleep, that you should be aware of and that can alert you to this condition. Some of these are screaming and speaking or kicking and hitting during a dream to recreate it.
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Research has continued to look at RBD and how it can affect both sexes in a number of ways. In a 2016 study published in Sleep, doctors set out to discover the genetics behind idiopathic RBD (IRBD) by looking at the clinical histories of 203 patients diagnosed with the condition between 1990 and 2014. Patients were diagnosed based on a wide range of criteria, such as a history in which their dreams were being recreated and the absence of neurodegenerative disease. Prior to this diagnosis, many bed partners also encouraged the patients to see a doctor.
During this study, there was a significant difference when it came to the sex of the patients. Of the 203 patients, 162 were men and only 41 were women, with a mean age of 68 years at the time of diagnosis. The results showed that the symptoms of IRBD are also very different for each gender. Compared to women, men were most likely to report beating and cursing while sleeping because so much was going on in their dreams. On the other side of the coin, women did not display nearly as aggressive behavior, reporting dreaming that their children were in life-threatening situations.
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While this isn’t always the case, symptoms of RBD could be a sign of another condition. In fact, research has shown that living out dreams can be a sign of Parkinson’s, a progressive nervous system disorder that causes damage to the brain and interferes with movement.
In 2015, researchers looked at 89 patients with IRBD in a study published in Neurology to see if the condition could be a marker for Parkinson’s disease. Over a period of 10 years, the patients were examined and evaluated annually to find out who had the highest risk of Parkinson’s. The results showed that 30 percent of the participants developed a neurodegenerative disease three years after the start of the study. By the seventh year, 66 percent of IRBD patients had neurodegenerative disease.
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Although no one treats their symptoms in the same way, there are several forms of treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may recommend making some simple changes to your sleeping environment to keep you and your bed partner physically safe. For example, you may suggest putting barriers on the side of the bed or cushions on the floor.
In addition to changing some sleeping habits, there are medications that can help you sleep better at night. Clonazepam is the most widely used and has been shown to be very effective in reducing RBD symptoms. However, this is not the only drug on the market. “Doctors are still studying several other drugs that can treat REM sleep behavior disorder,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Talk to your doctor to determine the most suitable treatment option for you.
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