A novel therapy for REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD)

Michael J. Howell, Patricia A. Arneson, Carlos H. Schenck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: RBD may result in sleep related injury (SRI) particularly if a patient exits the bed during dream enactment behavior (DEB). The complex auditory processing and low arousal threshold of REM sleep offers a therapeutic window to halt behavior prior to SRI. We evaluated whether a recorded message prevents SRI in medically refractory RBD. Design: Case Series. Setting: Sleep disorders center. Patients: Four consecutive RBD patients with continued SRI despite both clonazepam and melatonin therapy. Intervention: A pressurized bed alarm customized with a familiar voice to deliver a calming message during vigorous DEB. Measurements and Results: The RBDQ-HK evaluated RBD symptoms, and SRI was further quantified with a new clinical tool, the Minnesota Parasomnia Injury Scale. All patients reported a decrease in RBD symptoms and SRI. No injuries occurred post-intervention. Pre-treatment: 5 serious events (SE), 80 minor events (ME), and 193 near events (NE) were noted over 66 patient-months (4.21 events/pt-mo). Post-treatment: 0 SE, 0 ME, and 3 NE were noted after a follow up period of 63 pt-months (0.05 event/pt-mo). There were 176 total bed alarm interventions (2.79 interventions/pt-mo). No adverse effects were reported, and all 4 patients described a minimal burden of treatment. RBD symptoms improved as the average RBDQ-HK score decreased from 68 (range: 53-80) to 54 (range 42-65). Conclusion: A customized bed alarm may be an effective method to prevent SRI in RBD. This intervention is most suitable for cases of medically refractory RBD and/or for those patients who are unable to tolerate medical therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-644
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011


  • Bed alarm
  • Clonazepam
  • Melatonin
  • Minnesota parasomnia injury scale
  • Parkinson disease
  • REM sleep behavior disorder


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