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Kicking in sleep, arm and leg jerking movements, biting and punching at night. Can you tell me what is causing this?

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Hi, My husband kicks in his sleep and has quite extreme arm and leg jerking movements. He has also bitten me and the other night punched me twice in the face. Can you tell me what is causing this because in the morning me has no idea he has done anything wrong.
Posted Tue, 3 Jul 2012 in Sleep Disorders
Answered by Dr. Divya Kuttikrishnan 44 minutes later

Thanks for writing in.

I feel your husband might be suffering from Parasomnia (sleep disorder), probably REM(rapid eye movement) sleep behaviour disorder where there is a loss of normal skeletal muscle atonia ( loss of tone or a paralysis like state that each of us experiences during REM sleep) during REM sleep. REM sleep stands for rapid eye movement sleep, a phase of the sleep where the mind is active and the body is inactive. In each one of us, we are not able to enact our dreams because the body is inactive. However, in your husband's case, the body is not becoming inactive allowing him to enact his dreams.

I would like to have some additional information:
Is your husband on any medications ?
Does he have any history of neurologic disorders?
Does he consume alcohol excessively/ substance abuse?

I feel the best thing to do at this point of time ,would be to take him to a Sleep specialist and get an OVERNIGHT POLYSOMNOGRAPHY done. Treatment would simply consist of starting him on a benzodiazepine like clonazepam. Till then, please consider the following safety measures:

a. Remove potentially XXXXXXX objects from the bedroom.
b. Clear the floor of furniture and objects that could injure the person if he or she fell from bed.
c. Place the mattress on the floor, or place a cushion around the bed.
d. A bed with padded bed rails can be considered.

Meanwhile,I feel it would be safer for you to sleep on a separate bed.

Hope I have answered your question. If you have any further questions, I will be happy to answer them .

Awaiting your reply

Dr.Divya Kuttikrishnan
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Kicking in sleep, arm and leg jerking movements, biting and punching at night. Can you tell me what is causing this? 59 minutes later
Thank you for your prompt reply.

In answer to your question, my husband does not take any medication, he doesn't have a history of any neurologic disorders, he is not a 'big drinker', only consuming 2 units in any week and has never taken any illegal substances.

These 'episodes' do not occur every night but seem to be happening more and more often now.
Answered by Dr. Divya Kuttikrishnan 9 hours later

Thanks for your reply.
The reason I asked for history of neurologic disorders is because sometimes REM sleep behaviour disorders is associated with neurologic disorders.In most other cases, it is idiopathic (cause is unknown)

As I said, get an appointment with a sleep specialist and have an overnight polysomnography done for a confirmed diagnosis and treatment.

Hope you follow the safety measures I have suggested.

Have a great day.

Dr.Divya Kuttikrishnan
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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