REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Mike Birbiglia

by Cloe Gray, Ph.D., Senior Medical Writer at BioSerenity

August 31, 2022 | Sleep

Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia: REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Mike Birbiglia is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor. He has released several comedy albums, including My Secret Public Album and Thank God for Jokes. In 2005, he was diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder. He went to a sleep specialist and was diagnosed after jumping out of a second-story window while dreaming. He has stated that acting out his dreams usually involves fleeing from dangers. He has used this disorder in his comedy, releasing an album and then a movie titled Sleepwalk with Me.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM sleep behavior disorder is characterized by unusual motor behavior during REM sleep. It often involves talking, jumping off or falling off the bed, and flailing or punching. During REM sleep, the typical person has atonia, or temporary limb paralysis. In REM sleep behavior disorder, patients do not have this paralysis and tend to act out their dreams. The biological cause of REM sleep behavior disorder is thought to be a lack of inhibition of spinal cord neurons during sleep. This inhibition would normally result in atonia, but in REM sleep behavior patients, the lack of this inhibition causes motor behavior during REM sleep. The typical treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder would be medication such as melatonin or clonazepam. However, though these medications do reduce episodes, REM sleep behavior disorder does not go away completely. Therefore, patients are still advised to take caution, such as padding the headboard and removing potentially dangerous objects from the bedroom (1).

How can BioSerenity help with the diagnosis of REM behavior disorder?

BioSerenity can assist with the diagnosis of REM sleep behavior disorder by performing a sleep study. Polysomnography consists of a monitored overnight sleep recording; sleep studies are performed by licensed sleep technologists and the results are reviewed by board certified sleep specialists. Hallmarks of REM sleep behavior disorder, such as movement during REM sleep, can be observed in these recordings and used to help make an accurate diagnosis.

Do you think you might have REM Sleep Behavior Disorder? Ask your doctor for more information regarding sleep testing at BioSerenity.

(1) Silber MH, St Louis EK, Boeve B. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Parasomnias. In: Kryger M, ed. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 6 ed.: Elsevier; 2017:993-1001.

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