Mayo Clinic study shows melatonin helps alleviate violent sleep disorder symptoms

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A Mayo Clinic study shows that melatonin successfully alleviates many patients' symptoms of REM-sleep behavior disorder (RBD), a violent sleep condition that manifests during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a stage of deep sleep in which most dreaming occurs.

"Melatonin can be considered as one possible option for RBD," says Brad Boeve, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and sleep specialist, and the study's principal investigator.

People who experience RBD appear to act out their dreams, in which screaming, yelling, hitting, kicking and jumping out of bed tend to occur. These behaviors can cause injury to these people or their bed partners.

"Normally in REM sleep, almost every muscle in your body is paralyzed and you don't move," explains Dr. Boeve. "Therefore, when you have a dream, there's no excessive activity and no potential for injury. In this disorder, for reasons we don't fully understand yet, that normal paralysis is lost, and people will appear to act out their dreams. Sometimes, they're pleasant dreams. Usually, they're nightmarish, violent dreams with the person being chased or attacked by something or someone. So, they try to defend themselves or fight against it, leading to punching and kicking. They can injure themselves by jumping out of bed, striking the bedposts or diving out of bed. As for their bed partners -- they often get injured."

Dr. Boeve describes the potential injuries from RBD as "pretty violent" and points out the issues faced by bed partners of RBD patients.

"Many of them -- if they've been hit enough times or have been bruised or injured -- do move out of the bed," says Dr. Boeve. "But, like most couples, they want to sleep together."

Due to undesirable side effects of the current standard treatment for RBD, clonazepam, Dr. Boeve and colleagues sought to test other drugs to treat this condition. A small European study showing some success in treating RBD patients wit

Contact: Lisa Copeland
Mayo Clinic

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