Rhythmic movement disorder (RMD) is an uncommon sleep disorder that usually affects children more than adults, but is not an age-specific disorder. We spoke to Kenneth C. Anderson, M.D., a specialist in pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine and a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.
If you think you or your child might have rhythmic movement disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Tracie Handley
Be Supportive"This is not a bad or abnormal thing, so anything you do about it is more supportive in nature. Since it's largely in the kid population, they often grow out of it," he says.
Waking The Sleeper Won't 'Fix' ItAccording to Dr. Anderson, "With a lot of things that occur in those early stages of sleep, waking them won't make any difference. When they go back to sleep, they're just going to do the same thing because, for some reason, it is going to happen."
Seek An Evaluation"Seeking out a professional evaluation allows us to make sure it's a self-limiting process," says Dr. Anderson. He advises that the evaluation is a good idea, "to make sure we're not missing something else."
Try To Be UnderstandingDr. Anderson advises that a bed partner should try to be understanding, while realizing that waking the sleeper isn't helpful. "There are a lot of problems in sleep where, if you wake them up, they're just going to do the same thing when they go back to sleep. A simple example is a spouse, or bed partner, who snores. You hit them in the side to stop their snoring, but when they go back to sleep, the snoring starts again."
Intervene Only If Movement Is HarmfulAccording to Dr. Anderson, "The only time you really need to intervene is if the sleeper is doing something that could harm them. Like with the head banging, you could put something in place so they don't bang their head on something that could hurt them."
Kenneth C. Anderson, M.D., is a specialist in pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine and is a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center, at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as with Louisville Pulmonary Care, LLC. Dr. Anderson is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where he completed his residency and fellowship. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, sleep medicine and hospice and palliative medicine and is a certified NIOSH B reader.
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