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REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Behavior Dis Rapid Eye Movement Sleep

REM stands for rapid eye movements, an easily recognizable feature of determined sleep phases further characterized by the absence of muscle tone. Preservation of the muscle tone during REM sleep is associated with uncontrolled movements and possibly self-injury and corresponds to a REM sleep behavior disorder.


The preservation of muscle tone during REM phases is the single most important symptom of RBD. It entails involuntary myoclonic jerks throughout the body as well as movements of limbs and head, likely resembling motor dream enactment [6]. Affected individuals execute possibly aggressive or violent motions that may lead to self-injury, harm to third parties and damage to objects [7]. More complex presentations have also been described. Patients may gesture, punch, kick, sit up or leap from bed, grab somebody or something [8]. Their behavior is generally unintentional and not directed against a determined person or item. They may or may not wake up and recall their vivid dreams. Fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness are a common consequence of RBD [9].

Ventilation is usually not affected.

  • The Italian version of RBDSQ is a sensitive tool for the identification of RBD patients. An improvement of the instrument could be obtained by removing item 10 and define a higher cut-off value of 8.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • P.T. acknowledges support from the Italian Ministry of Health “Ricerca Corrente.” M.Y. acknowledges support from the Japan Foundation for Neuroscience and Mental Health. DISCLOSURE I.[doi.org]
Nocturnal Awakening
  • ., questions on nocturnal vocalization (6.1), sudden-limb movements (6.2), complex movements (6.3) or bedding items that fall down (6.4); items 7 and 8, nocturnal awakenings; item 9, general disturbances of sleep; and item 10, the presence of any neurological[bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com]
Compulsive Disorder
  • In addition, a 31-year-old man with obsessive-compulsive disorder developed RBD soon after starting fluoxetine therapy, which persisted at PSG study 19 months after fluoxetine discontinuation.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Somnambulism Sitting, walking, or other complex behaviors occur during sleep, usually with the eyes open but without evidence of recognition.[merckmanuals.com]
  • Differential diagnosis Several sleep disorders causing behaviors in sleep can be considered in the differential diagnosis, such as sleep walking (somnambulism), sleep terrors, nocturnal seizures, nightmares, psychogenic dissociative states, post-traumatic[bjmp.org]
  • NREM parasomnias including night terrors, somnambulism, and confusional arousals are most prevalent in pediatric populations.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Anna Szűcs, Anita Kamondi, Rezső Zoller, Gábor Barcs, Pál Szabó and György Purebl, Violent somnambulism: A parasomnia of young men with stereotyped dream-like experiences, Medical Hypotheses, 83, 1, (47), (2014).[doi.org]
Fine Tremor
  • A 72-year-old woman was admitted complaining of fine tremor of the right hand and weakness of the right lower extremity. She was diagnosed as having CBD on the basis of clinical features and neuroimaging studies.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 67-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital with dysarthria and gait disturbance after onset age of 62 years. Neurological examination revealed pure cerebellar ataxia.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Clinicopathological and imaging correlates of progressive aphasia and apraxia of speech. Brain. 2006; 129 :1385–1398. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ] 174. Boeve BF, Maraganore DM, Parisi JE, et al.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Postural Instability
  • REM sleep behavior disorder is not linked to postural instability and gait dysfunction in Parkinson.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Sexual Dysfunction
  • dysfunction (17%), and nausea (6%).[ 21 ] In one large review and clinical guide, the most commonly cited adverse effects of clonazepam were sedation, impotence, motor incoordination, and confusion/memory dysfunction.[ 20 ] Additionally, clonazepam is[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Sedating medications should be ceased and obstructive sleep apnea, primary sleep disorders, and nocturia should be ruled out. Caffeine is a useful treatment in those without periodic leg movement disorder of sleep or restless leg syndrome [ 95 ].[doi.org]


Diagnostic criteria for RBD have been defined as follows by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine [10]:

As well as either one of the following:

  • Harmful or potentially harmful behavior during sleep
  • Motor dream enactment
  • Disruption of sleep continuity

The diagnosis of RBD may be based on these minimal criteria, but is ideally supported by the following polysomnographic findings as obtained during REM sleep:

These criteria apply if mental disorders have been ruled out. In contrast, concomitant neurodegenerative disease or other neurological disorder are not to be considered at this point. In fact, a considerable subset of RBD patients suffers from additional pathologies like Parkinson's disease.

EEG Slowing
  • Some prospective results in iRBD showed that potential markers of neurodegeneration are the following: 1) marked EEG slowing on spectral analysis; 2) decreased striatal 123I-FPCIT; 3) impaired color vision.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Neurofibrillary Tangle
  • After death, semiquantitative analyses were conducted for synuclein, amyloid, neurofibrillary tangles, and cerebrovascular lesions. RESULTS: Forty cases had probable RBD (PD RBD), and 41 did not (PD-RBD).[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


  • A sound evidence basis for symptomatic treatment of RBD remains lacking, and randomized controlled treatment trials are needed.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


  • Prospective outcome and treatment studies of RBD are necessary to enable accurate prognosis and better evidence for symptomatic therapy and future neuroprotective strategies.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


  • Rapid onset and progression of multifocal deficits may be a clue to paraneoplastic etiology. Early treatment of a limited stage cancer (with or without immunotherapy) may possibly slow progression of neurological symptoms.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The precise etiology and neural structures involved in RBD are unknown.[emedicine.medscape.com]


  • This review article considers the epidemiology of RBD, clinical and polysomnographic diagnostic standards for both RBD and RSWA, previously reported associations of RSWA and RBD with neurodegenerative disorders and other potential causes, the pathophysiology[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • This article discusses RBD diagnosis, prevalence, epidemiology and demographic data, clinical features, pathophysiology and management options. Postuma, R.B., Gagnon, J.F., Vendette, M., Charland, K., Montplaisir, J. (2008).[davisphinneyfoundation.org]
Sex distribution
Age distribution


  • Pathophysiologically, brainstem and supratentorial mechanisms involving glutamatergic, glycinergic, and GABA-ergic neurotransmission have been implicated. Recently, an animal model of RBD has been described.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


  • The focus of this review is symptomatic treatment for injury prevention.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • In healthy brains, muscles are temporarily paralyzed during sleep to prevent this from happening.[universityherald.com]


Physiologically, longer periods of non-REM sleep are interrupted by short REM phases. A complete sleep cycle comprising all four stages of non-REM sleep as well as a REM phase usually lasts about 100 minutes [1]. Both disturbances of non-REM or REM sleep and irregular cycling are related to sleep disorders.

Dreaming typically occurs during REM sleep. Accordingly, REM phases are characterized by bursts of rapid eye movement, increase of the brain and sympathetic nerve activity, heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as irregular respiration and the absence of muscle tone [2]. Enhanced brain activity is reflected in wake-like electroencephalograms, loss of muscle tone may be depicted by means of electromyography [1]. The preservation of muscle tone during REM phases is pathologic, and affected individuals are diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), a type of parasomnia [3].

Although the majority of cases is deemed idiopathic, incidence rates are markedly increased among patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy. In this context, RBD has been proposed as a risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases, and have been shown to precede the latter by decades [4]. This may have major implications for the diagnosis and early treatment of the respective entities. RBD may also be seen in individuals taking antidepressants and in those abusing or withdrawing from alcohol or drugs [5].



  1. Penzel T, Kantelhardt JW, Lo CC, Voigt K, Vogelmeier C. Dynamics of heart rate and sleep stages in normals and patients with sleep apnea. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003; 28 Suppl 1:S48-53.
  2. Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep M, Research. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. In: Colten HR, Altevogt BM, eds. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.
  3. Coeytaux A, Wong K, Grunstein R, Lewis SJ. REM sleep behaviour disorder - More than just a parasomnia. Aust Fam Physician. 2013; 42(11):785-788.
  4. Claassen DO, Josephs KA, Ahlskog JE, Silber MH, Tippmann-Peikert M, Boeve BF. REM sleep behavior disorder preceding other aspects of synucleinopathies by up to half a century. Neurology. 2010; 75(6):494-499.
  5. McCarter SJ, St Louis EK, Boeve BF. REM sleep behavior disorder and REM sleep without atonia as an early manifestation of degenerative neurological disease. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2012; 12(2):182-192.
  6. Blumberg MS, Plumeau AM. A new view of "dream enactment" in REM sleep behavior disorder. Sleep Med Rev. 2015; 30:34-42.
  7. Lloyd R, Tippmann-Peikert M, Slocumb N, Kotagal S. Characteristics of REM sleep behavior disorder in childhood. J Clin Sleep Med. 2012; 8(2):127-131.
  8. Arnulf I. REM sleep behavior disorder: motor manifestations and pathophysiology. Mov Disord. 2012; 27(6):677-689.
  9. Arnulf I, Neutel D, Herlin B, et al. Sleepiness in Idiopathic REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and Parkinson Disease. Sleep. 2015; 38(10):1529-1535.
  10. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders, revised: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Chicago, Illinois: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2001.

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Last updated: 2019-06-28 09:56