A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that there are effective treatment options for people with REM sleep behavior disorder.
People who have RBD act out vivid, action-packed dreams while remaining asleep. Injuries to the dreamer or a bed partner are common.
RBD often is treated with clonazepam, a long-acting sedative. But the study reports that some side effects of this drug may be more prominent in older adults. Since RBD usually emerges after the age of 50 years, treatment can be problematic.
The small study involved a review of 39 people with confirmed RBD who were treated at a sleep center in the U.K.; 38 of the patients were men. They had an average age of 66 years; the youngest patient was 34 years old.
Thirty-six of the patients began treatment with clonazepam. Fifty-four percent took the medication successfully; but 58 percent reported moderate or severe side effects. The most common side effects were morning grogginess, confusion and cognitive impairment.
Zopiclone, a shorter-acting hypnotic, was used by 11 patients; nine used it alone, while two used it together with another medication. It was effective and well tolerated in eight of the 11 cases.
Two patients used melatonin; one used it while taking two other medications. Both people found it to be effective.
The authors conclude that it is important to consider the potential side effects when treating RBD in older adults. Shorter-acting hypnotics may be a useful treatment option.
Learn more about medications for sleep disorders on SleepEducation.com.
Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center if you or someone you know acts out dreams during sleep.