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Rhythmic Movement Disorder or Walking in Your Sleep

Have you seen people walking in their sleep or banging their head against the wall or rocking in forcible manner, while sleeping? It can occur to anyone, yet the causes of these are unknown. See more in this article.
Have you ever seen someone roll in their sleep? Most of us have seen people walk in their sleep or talk in their sleep; we may even do one or the other ourselves. Over the past two years I have watched and learned about RMD. The first time I saw it I was shocked, I was never so scared in all my life. I was sleeping beside a very close friend of mine when she woke me. I turned over to see what had woken me and there she lay in her sleep rolling back and forth at a repetitive rate that was extremely alarming. It terrified me. I didn't know what was happening. It looked like she was out of control; I gently called out her name, and she awoke. That morning, I shared with her what I had seen, and she had no idea that she had been doing this. I began to study why she would roll in a motion like this in her sleep and this is what I found.

RMD is known as Rhythmic Movement Disorder; it applies to any type of consistent movement when one performs the movement in his sleep. This normally occurs primarily in young children and infants. It takes place just before sleep and during the light parts of sleep. Along with the movement, one might also hum in a rhythm or make another type of throat sound; these sounds can become quite loud without the person realizing it. There are three types of RMD: body rolling/rocking, head banging, and head rolling. My friend was a young adult when I saw RMD take place in her sleep. So, my question was, why would a young adult have RMD if it normally occurs in infants in children?

What I found out next made sense. Adults that have RMD may be connected to the fact that they did not receive enough human contact in their infancy or in their childhood stages. My friend lost both of her parents at a young age and was institutionalized. Today she is still living in an institution. Body rolling/rocking is not the only movement that one can see with RMD, you could also see one:

-head movements backward then forward in a forcible manner. This repeated movement occurs normally when the person in question lies face down. The head or entire upper body is lifted and afterwards forced down to slam against the object he is lying on;

-head movement from side to side while lying on the back in the same forcible manner;

-rocking the entire body supported by hands and knees;

-rocking the upper body while sitting;

-rock and gently hit the body often against a wall while in a standing position or bang the back of the head over and over again sometimes against a wall or headboard.

You can also see anyone of these combined at the same time. The causes of RMD are unknown; all we have are theories. Hyperactivity could be one cause as well as autism. Some adults were asked why they "rock" before they fall asleep? Their reply was that the movement calmed and soothed them into their sleep; the movement reminded them of when they were infants being cuddled to sleep by their parents or caregivers.

The treatment for RMD is time. Most who have RMD "lose" it before they turn the age of five. Infants with RMD who exhibit violent type motions can be helped by simply placing padding under and around him. If RMD continues into the upper stages of life; it can interfere with everyday social events. I have personally found that it is extremely important to discuss with caretakers, family members, and baby sitters about the one they are caring for if the one has RMD.

RMD episodes can occur at any time during the night when one is asleep. Sometimes, RMD may take place during one's quiet activities when one is awake; for instance when listening to music. The rate of the action varies, but it happens rapidly; one to two motions take place each one to two seconds. Most episodes often last for no more than a total of fifteen minutes. The motions normally stop when a noise or voice is heard or movement is seen or felt. When RMD happens at night it is not remembered; when it occurs in the day you will find that the one does not even realize he is doing it.
By Claudia Miclaus
Last Updated: 10/20/2011
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