Violent Sleep Disorder Linked to Smoking

By McCarton Ackerman 06/29/12

A rare disorder that causes you to lash out while sleeping might be yet another reason to kick the habit—not your bedmate.

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Sleep fighting: don't let it happen to you.
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It's common for smokers to become more agitated when they can't have their cigs—now it turns out that such aggression may also appear in their sleep. A new study suggests that a rare sleep disorder in which people violently kick, punch or thrash in their sleep is more common in smokers. The study examined 347 people who suffered from REM sleep behavior disorder and another 347 who didn't. The disorder only affects 0.5% of adults, but those diagnosed are 43% more likely than the average to be smokers, and WebMD reports that 45% of cases are linked to withdrawal from alcohol, sedatives or antidepressants. "Until now, we didn't know much about the risk factors for this disorder, except that it was more common in men and in older people," says study author Dr. Ronald B. Postuma, a sleep researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal. "Because it is a rare disorder, it was difficult to gather information about enough patients for a full study. For this study, we worked with 13 institutions in 10 countries to get a full picture of the disorder." For any sleeping partners of people with the disorder who worry about waking up with a black eye in the morning, possible treatments include muscle relaxers such as Klonopin and changes to the sleep environment, reducing the risk of injury.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.