Rapid eye movement (REM), also known as violent sleep disorder is the dream state of sleep. During this state, your brain sends signals to prevent your muscles from moving. However, for people with REM sleep behaviour disorder, those signals are disrupted. A person may act out violent or action-filled dreams by yelling, flailing their arms, punching or kicking, to the point of harming themselves or a sleep partner.
"While much is still unknown about REM sleep behaviour disorder, it can be caused by medications or it may be an early sign of another neurologic condition like Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy," said study author Ronald Postuma, MD, MSc, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Identifying lifestyle and personal risk factors linked to this sleep disorder may lead to finding ways to reduce the chances of developing it," Postuma added.
Researchers found those with the disorder were over two-and-a-half times as likely to report taking antidepressants to treat depression. Taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors identified by the researchers for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder. People with the disorder were also two-and-a-half times as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They were twice as likely to have a mental illness, and over one-and-a-half times as likely to have psychological distress. "Our research does not show that these risk factors cause REM sleep behaviour disorder, it only shows they are linked," said Postuma. "Our hope is that our findings will help guide future research, especially because REM sleep behaviour disorder is such a strong sign of future neurodegenerative disease. The more we understand about REM sleep behaviour disorder, the better positioned we will be to eventually prevent neurologic conditions like Parkinson's disease," Postuma concluded.