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Acting Out Dreams While Asleep

Some people physically act out their dreams. They may punch, kick or yell while asleep. This condition is called REM sleep behavior disorder or RBD. Sleep problems, including RBD, are common for people diagnosed with Parkinson's. Read on for resources.

People with RBD Play a Critical Role in Research

RBD can be one of the first symptoms of Parkinson's, occurring years before a diagnosis. Ongoing smell loss can be another early indicator. Our landmark PPMI study is examining risk factors and planning for Parkinson's prevention for people of all backgrounds.

  • Age 60 and Up

    • People who do NOT have Parkinson's disease. 

    If you meet the above criteria, you can play an important role in the study. Your first step is to take a free scratch-and-sniff test.

  • Under Age 60

    • People with AND without Parkinson's disease. 

    If you meet the above criteria, you can share valuable data in the study's online platform. Surveys are sent directly to your inbox.

Know Your Risk for Parkinson's: What's the connection between sleep and brain disease?

Narrated by comedian and actor Mike Birbiglia, this video sheds light on RBD's connection to Parkinson's.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Is REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?

    Normally when we dream, our brain prevents our muscles from moving. In some, these brain signals don’t work properly, and a person moves while dreaming. This is REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). People with RBD often have very active dreams in which they’re playing sports, running, or even being chased or attacked.

  • How is RBD connected to Parkinson's?

    RBD is a risk factor for Parkinson's and other brain diseases. Not everyone with RBD gets Parkinson’s disease. But in some people, RBD is one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson's. 

  • How is smell loss connected to Parkinson's?

    Similar to RBD, ongoing smell loss can also indicate risk for Parkinson's disease. After a diagnosis, some people with Parkinson’s report losing their sense of smell years or even decades earlier. This condition is called hyposmia. 

    Not everyone with smell loss will develop a brain disease. Researchers are studying the link between smell loss and brain health to learn more about Parkinson's risk.

  • What is the PPMI study?

    The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is a landmark study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation. PPMI aims to better understand and measure Parkinson's disease, including before movement symptoms begin. Examining Parkinson's risk factors like RBD can provide information that could lead to new treatments.  

    Through PPMI, scientists also could learn more about the biology and experience of RBD. 

    Have questions about joining the study? Call 866-525-PPMI or email to speak with the team. 

Resources to Learn More

  • Screen icon with play symbol

    Watch a Video

    In this Ask the MD video, Rachel Dolhun, MD, speaks with a couple about their experience with RBD.

  • magazine icon with orange circle backdrop

    Download a Guide

    In this guide, we explain three things to know about Parkinson’s risk if you or a loved one act out dreams. 

  • Computer icon

    View a Webinar

    In this webinar, expert panelists discuss common sleep problems and tips for managing them. 

"I am hopeful that my participation in studies like PPMI can serve as my contribution to this vitally needed research and can hopefully over time lead to true scientifically proven cures and prevention strategies.”
Brian Duggan, 67, Mill Valley, CA Lives with RBD

Are you a PPMI study site looking to request promotional materials? Email

If you were directed here by your sleep doctor, please contact them for a direct referral to join the PPMI study.

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