Falling Out of Bed: A Sign of Something More Serious?

Have you ever fallen out of bed and wondered what happened? Did you just take a roll or two in the wrong direction while you were sleeping? Or maybe, your partner just gave you enough of a nudge to send you over the edge. You may not think about it too much if it happens once, but if you have had this happen multiple times you may be experiencing a medical condition called REM sleep behavior disorder or RBD.

The Basics of RBD

When you go to sleep at night, your body should cycle through a couple of general stages of sleep. The first is NREM, non-rapid eye movement, during which your body is experiencing some of it’s most restorative sleep. The second is REM, rapid eye movement, which is when you’re experiencing some of your most vivid dreams.

During a normal night of sleep, neurotransmitters in your brain work to switch off the cells in your brain which enable muscle activity. This should allow you to get a restful night of sleep in which you do not act out your dreams.

When you have RBD the paralysis of your muscles is absent or incomplete, meaning that you are able to play out parts of your dreams. You can yell, talk, get up or fall out of bed, and even sleepwalk.

You may not even realize what is actually happening as you sleep until you wake up. This can be especially true if the reason that you are coming out of sleep has to do with a fall to the floor from your comfortable mattress. However, you are most likely to recall the details of the dream that you were having and what you were doing while you were acting out in your sleep.

What Does This Mean?

The specific cause of REM sleep behavior disorder is still unknown, however, there have been links to the development of medical conditions when RBD is present. You may be dealing with, or even at a higher risk of developing neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multisystem atrophy.

RBD if caught early on, could herald the development of neurodegenerative diseases. However, it is seen in roughly 69% of people diagnosed with multisystem atrophy and Parkinson’s disease. You should know that just because you are dealing with RBD, it does not guarantee that you are going to develop conditions such as Parkinson’s.

What you should be aware of with REM sleep behavior disorder is that you are capable of moving in your sleep. Since you are lacking some or all of the paralysis that should normally occur when entering the REM cycle, you may have an increased risk of injury throughout the night.

The Danger of a Sleep Related Fall

While experiencing a sleep-related fall you may be unaware of your surroundings or unable to shield yourself by breaking your descent. This can be especially dangerous if you have bedside furniture, or just as a result of hitting your head when you finally hit the ground.

In a press release from September 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control, falls are listed as the top cause of injury and even deaths plaguing older Americans. Falling from your bed while you sleep could put you at a heightened risk of developing a traumatic brain injury if there is trauma to your head. To top it off, you may not even realize the extent of the impact when it occurs as a result of being asleep.

Reducing Your Risk

First and foremost, if you are falling out of bed in the night, then it may be time to think about utilizing safety aids to reduce your risk of taking a dive. Bedroom safety equipment such as bed rails, bedside safety mats and/or wedges can provide you with the preventative measures that may keep you safe in the event of unplanned activity throughout the night. Safety bed rails can be an create an obstacle that can effectively prevent you from rolling off the bed while you sleep.

You should move bedside furniture to a safe distance from the bed so that if you do happen to fall during the night, you are not at risk for hitting your head, or having something fall on top of you. It may also be a good idea to move your bed away from, and place an obstacle such as a dresser in front of any windows.

Making sure that you maintain a certain level of sleep time throughout the night is also a best practice. Sleep deprivation may exacerbate RBD.

You should also speak with your doctor if you are experiencing abnormal amounts of movement throughout the night. This could shine some light on a possible future issue and allow you and your doctor to find a treatment to help reduce the symptoms.

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1 Response

  1. Jerry Dryer says:

    Thanks. I’ve stated falling out of bed a while back. Wife told me my legs are quite active at night. Never knew. After this it will be on my next Doc appointment.

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