Rhythmic Movement Disorder

Mon, Jul 20, 2009


What is rhythmic movement disorder?

Rhythmic Movement Disorder (RMD), also known as jactatio capitis nocturna, is a sleep disorder condition that can be described as repetitive rocking or banging body motions before and/or during drowsiness or light sleep. This condition mostly happens in infants and young children. However, adults can although be affected. Normally, Rhythmic Movement Disorder is harmless, but it can be shocking or puzzling to parents or others who witness it.

Rhythmic Movement Disorder refers to the following repetitive movements:

  • body rolling when the whole body is moving while lying on the back with face upposition
  • head rolling when the head is moving while in lying on the back with face up position
  • head banging when the head is forcibly moving back and forward direction
  • body rocking when the whole body is rocking while it is on the hands and knees
  • other repetitive movements

Rhythmic Movement Disorder will usually occur at the beginning of sleep cycle, however, it has been reported to rarely happening during other sleep stages.

  • The most common form of Rhythmic Movement Disorder is head rocking and banging.
  • It displayed by a forward and backward movement onto a pillow, a crib, or  awall.
  • Usually accompanied by humming sound,
  • Rhythmic Movement Disorder incidents typically last for 15 min then stop.
  • Occasionally, they could last much longer. It all depends on the lightness of sleep. In general, Rhythmic Movement Disorder reflects the child’s day-time precondition: if there have been some restriction to the child movements during the day, such as prolong body position during a day-nap, or any other restrictions to their body movements. If that happens, the child’s body will try to release itself from any disturbance that occurred during the day by simply producing those involuntary movements. Remember what the most animals do when they got wet: they produce shaking and rolling body movements to get rid of excessive liquid from their fur.
  • Rhythmic Movement Disorder is quite common in young children, and, usually, it diminishes by the age of 3 to 4 years.
  • It is a common opinion that Rhythmic Movement Disorder behavior is still unknown, however, medical research says that it might help stimulate sleep in some children. See Sleep Master’ explanation underlined above.

RMD affects mostly healthy children but has been also reported in children with autism and with other developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome.

Sleep-Related Movement Disorders in Adults

Adults, when they asked why they “rock” themselves to fall asleep, usually say that it is a soothing and calming method to fall asleep. They also say that they got used to it from their infant years when they had been rocked in their crib to get sleep by parents. It is also believed that children, by rocking and rolling back and forth in the bed, can warm themselves up to the point when it will be easy for them to fall asleep.

  • Other study indicates that adults who have been diagnosed with RMD, especially those with autistic and intellectual inclination, display high mental concentration of their thoughts. For them, RMD may be a way to break that concentration and bring them into a regular REM sleep state during periods of light sleep. Other sleep disorders in adultsthat occur one time or another throughout their life span (see insomnia, hypersomnia, and narcolepsy) are also responsible  for RMD. 
  • Some “sleep rockers” report a profound sense of relief when they allow themselves to engage in their pre-sleep movements and conversely great agitation when they attempt to “restrain” themselves from insomnia, hypersomnia, and narcolepsy their sleep movements. The degree and description of both relief and agitation reported by some with rhythmic sleep movements bears striking resemblances to reports from dancers, runners, or those whose religious practices include rhythmic movement who have been unable to engage in their desired activity. (by

How to Prevent Rhythmic Movement Disorder in Children:

Normally, the treatment of Rhythmic Movement Disorder is not required. The only exceptions are when there is a high risk of injury, a disturbance to the family members or to the child, or when it destroys the child’s sleep.

  • Good Sleep Habits and Hygiene (see related article).
  • Make sure that children so not spend long time in bed without sleep during their bedtime.
  • Apply behavioral interventions, such as reward systems. See Baby Sleep Secret article for details.
  • Short term medication, such as benzodiazepine, can be used only in extreme cases and very seldom.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This post was written by:

- who has written 152 posts on Master Your Sleep.

Contact the author

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Debt Settlement Program Says:

    charming post. upright one decimal where I contest with it. I am emailing you in detail.

Leave a Reply

Protected by WP Anti Spam

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.