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REM sleep without atonia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep without atonia is a disorder commonly seen in patients without prior diagnosis of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). It is a type of parasomnia in which a patient experiences repeated enactment of dreams as an incidental finding in neurologically normal individuals.

Atonia, by definition, is the inability of the muscles to move due to total relaxation. In terms of REM sleep without atonia, there still is muscular mobility, however, RBD still occurs, mostly caused by antidepressants.

Dream enactment ranges from mild to severe – hand gestures to violent thrashing, punching, and kicking. Most patients report concern over injurious or potentially injurious behavior towards themselves and/or partner in bed. The National Sleep Foundation said this condition is more likely to affect men and usually occurs after age 50.

Known risk factors and symptoms of REM sleep without atonia

REM sleep without atonia has been previously linked to:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Cognition problems
  • Executive functioning issues
  • Lower scores in attention

It can also be triggered by some medications often prescribed to people suffering from a mental disorder, such as anti-depressants. REM sleep without atonia was also linked to those who have suffered trauma and heavy drinkers.

The following are common symptoms of this disorder:

  • Talking
  • Shouting
  • Flailing
  • Grabbing things
  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Jumping
  • At times, walking or running

Body systems affected by REM sleep without atonia

A person suffering from REM sleep without atonia is in a much higher risk of developing some serious conditions, such as:

  • Narcolepsy – Uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep at random times and at any place.
  • Parkinson’s disease – A neurodegenerative disorder that causes tremors, muscular rigidity, and difficulty in moving.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder – Sudden movement, cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep.
  • Sleep apnea – A sleep disorder where breathing sometimes stops.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent REM sleep without atonia

The following are nutrients needed by the body to get a proper sleep:

  • Vitamin B6 – Aids in the production of tryptophan needed to produce serotonin. Serotonin is known for encouraging a healthy slumber. It can be sourced from fish, beef liver, potatoes, starchy vegetables, and some non-citrus fruits.
  • Vitamin B12 – It encourages healthy levels of melatonin and can be sourced from clams, trout, salmon, beef, and yogurt.
  • Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin has been scientifically proven to improve sleep. People who lack vitamin D reported having poor sleeping habits. It can be sourced directly from sun exposure.
  • Melatonin – Although not a nutrient, it is a hormone which helps the brain determine whether it is time to sleep or time to wake up. It can be sourced from tomatoes, grapes, pomegranate, broccoli, and barley.

Meanwhile, here are some of the foods that encourage a good sleep:

  • Tart cherries
  • Jasmine rice
  • Kiwi
  • Pistachios
  • Salmon
  • Tofu

The following list of foods should be avoided as they are the worst ones for sleep:

  • Coffee
  • Steak
  • Candies and chocolates
  • Chili Peppers
  • Pepperoni pizza
  • Salt and vinegar chips

Treatments, management options for REM sleep without atonia

It is possible to achieve a good night’s sleep with the help of the following natural home remedies:

  • Creating a sleeping routine – Train your body to a certain routine where you sleep at the same time every night and you wake up at the same time every morning. The body will get used to it and will automatically send signals if it’s time to sleep or get up.
  • Regular exercise – It helps expend the extra energy the body stores which makes it hard to fall asleep.
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine – All these three are stimulants that will keep you alert and awake.
  • Sleep ’till morning – Your body will use the sunlight as an indication that it is time to wake up.
  • Weight management – Since some are having a hard time sleeping because of difficulty in breathing, it’s a good start to lose weight.
  • Drink tea – Herbal teas are known for relaxing the mind and body.
  • Move around in bed – Try different sleeping positions until you find a comfortable one.
  • Remove distractions – Don’t put television or computer inside your room as they can distract you from going to bed.

Where to learn more


REM sleep without atonia is a type of parasomnia wherein a person suffers from dream enactment, often involving talking, thrashing, punching or kicking. It’s more common among men and normally occurs after 50 years of age.

This disorder has been linked to apathy, lower scores in attention, cognition problems, executive functioning issues, and anxiety. Those who suffer from REM sleep without atonia have an increased risk of developing narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease, periodic limb movement disorder, and sleep apnea.

Health experts recommend packing up on vitamins B6, B12, and D, and the hormone melatonin to encourage a healthy slumber. Moreover, foods like tart cherries, jasmine rice, kiwi, pistachios, salmon, and tofu are also great in promoting a good night’s sleep.

Natural remedies include having a sleeping a routine, exercising, losing weight, and avoiding any stimulants may help address the problems caused by the disorder.

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