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Rocking Movements In My Sleep

by Nikki
(New York)

Lately my boyfriend has noticed that in the middle of the night I sit up and rock back and forth shaking my head from left to right. I have no memory of this activity and I am asleep while this is happening. He has tried to wake me up while in progress, and I just mumble. Why does this occur? And is there anything I can do to stop it from happening?

Kevin's Answer

Hey Nikki,


This sounds a lot like a condition known as Rhythmic Movement Disorder (or RMD). RMD is a lot like it sounds--it consists of repetitive rhythmic movements of large body areas during (and sometimes just before) sleep. What you have described sounds like a common symptom of RMD known as body rocking, where the patient will sit up during light sleep (usually in stages 1 and 2 of NREM sleep) and rock his or her entire body back and forth, often with no recollection of it in the morning, as you describe.

Rhythmic Movement Disorder is a parasomnia, a type of sleep disorder that typically involves excess physical movements during sleep (sleepwalking and sleep talking are other examples of parasomnias). Often the movements associated with RMD are passive and not the cause of much concern beyond any disturbances of sleep or bed partner worry that may come along with it. But sometimes the movements can consist of violent thrashings of the head that can cause some serious pain and even lasting damage. That obviously doesn't sound like what you are describing, but just something to be aware of in the larger picture of the condition.

Another notable thing for me to mention about Rhythmic Movement Disorder is that it is typically found in infants and young children, where it can often be left untreated, as long as it's not causing physical harm, as the children almost always outgrow it. It is found in adulthood on a much rarer basis, and as such it would be a great idea to go see a sleep specialist about it. There you'll likely be able to have a polysomnographic test to make it clear exactly what it is you're experiencing and make sure that it is not a sign of a separate problem as well.

The direct causes of RMD are not really known yet, and it's a bit tricky since the condition can occur in individuals with otherwise perfect health, children or adults. Some have suggested it is perhaps related a bit to stress when it occurs in adolescents or adults (kind of like a tic movement during sleep), but that doesn't really explain why it occurs in infants too, so you can see where things can get a bit tricky here.

While I can point you towards this information about RMD and offer that what you describe certainly sounds like it, I would really suggest seeing a sleep specialist about it to verify that and make sure everything is okay.

My best wishes to you! If you have any follow-up questions or comments, please don't hesitate to post them using the "Post Comments" link below!

Warmly,
Kevin

Comments for Rocking Movements In My Sleep

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Jan 09, 2012
My partner ro!cking in his sleep! NEW
by: Emma (UK)

I have recently noticed my partner rocking rather fast in his sleep. So much so that is is causing me to be woken up several times throughout the night. He appears to hold his own body by wrapping his arms around himself tightly and as i said this happens a number of times every night.
Is there any treatment for this? does anyone know why this happens?
I really need some advise can anyone help as i am getting little sleep and have a young family lol.
Many thanks Emma

Nov 04, 2012
Hello NEW
by: Ladyofmori

See , that's what I don't get. I want to say that I have RMD, but I rock myself to sleep and sing. I have too, or I can't sleep. Is that also considered RMD?

Apr 08, 2013
Do I have RMD? NEW
by: Anonymous

I'm 15 years old and I've been rocking since I can remember. I used to rock myself to sleep and sometimes, I'd wake up in the middle of the night sitting up, knowing that I was rocking while I was asleep. I would also move my legs a lot and kick my sister without knowing. Now, I rock myself to sleep and when I watch TV, but only when no-one is around.If someone gets up in the night and I am half asleep rocking I immediately stop.If I do not rock, I cannot sleep or I sleep short hours and have to rock to get myself to sleep properly. Sometimes, I end up rocking for hours which means I do not get sleep at all. Do I have RMD?

Apr 21, 2014
to wake or not to wake? NEW
by: martine

My partner suffers with RMD (47yrs old). I usually put my arm around him and say it's ok, go to sleep. This seems to settle him but I'm wondering if it's better to leave him. He has rocked 5 times tonight, he is very stressed at the minute, hence writing this at 4am.
Is it better to let him rock or comfort him?

Apr 21, 2014
to wake or not to wake? NEW
by: martine

My partner suffers with RMD (47yrs old). I usually put my arm around him and say it's ok, go to sleep. This seems to settle him but I'm wondering if it's better to leave him. He has rocked 5 times tonight, he is very stressed at the minute, hence writing this at 4am.
Is it better to let him rock or comfort him?

Aug 31, 2014
advice NEW
by: Anonymous

So my boyfriend is in his early 20's and last night he has rocked side to side 6 times. It usually last anywhere from 5-15 minutes as he rocks he shakes his head and I'm not sure why or what to do.. Advice would be awesome

Sep 06, 2014
side to side rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

im 15 and ive been rocking side to side ever since I was a baby.Its never caused me any problems but don't know wat im going to do when if I get married in the future.

Sep 06, 2014
side to side rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

im 15 and ive been rocking side to side ever since I was a baby.Its never caused me any problems but don't know wat im going to do when if I get married in the future.

Oct 29, 2014
exhausted NEW
by: tired for to long

Hi there its not me having the trouble with rocking its my bf, he bends his leg and starts rocking, I usually knock it down to get him to stop but 2 minutes later and he starts again, and his arms are constantly swinging, if I went to the Dr and he seen the bruises he would think my bf's beating me lol, I love him with all my heart but its getting to the point where I can't asleep with him just because he moves around to much, I'm exhausted, is there anything I can do to help this situation, oh I almost forgot,on top of all that he SNORES lol I expect any day now the paint will be sucked off the wall he's that bad.... Please help me PLEASE

Nov 12, 2014
Why do I rock? NEW
by: Anonymous

I have been rocking myself to sleep virtually all of my life (38 yrs old). I've encountered very few people that do the same, but it's certainly more common than I thought judging on the various online blogs dedicated to it. It's embarrassing to have to tell someone you're dating about this sleeping habit, but it's an extremely difficult habit to break. The worst part of trying to break the habit is trying to determine its underlying cause as to why you do it in the first place.

Dec 02, 2014
Rocking myself to sleep NEW
by: Rukus

I use to do this as a kid and still today have the urge to do so. I would go on all fours on my knees and elbows and with the top of my head on the pillow i would rock back and forth until my body got tired and i would just sleep. As i got older became less frequent but even still today i feel the urge to do it but i easily don't. I use to call it ''Going on my head'' lol

Dec 08, 2014
53 and still rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

Since birth I was up on all fours in bed banging my head.as I got older I banged my head and rocked my body..now at 53 I rock like crazy. I'm married and it drives my husband nuts but I can't stop.I have to rock until my body is so exhausted, my body crashes and sleeps. I don't have stress in my life,it's just something I must do..

Dec 08, 2014
53 and still rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

Since birth I was up on all fours in bed banging my head.as I got older I banged my head and rocked my body..now at 53 I rock like crazy. luckily I stopped banging my head,but I still rocked like crazy. I'm married 30 years and it drives my husband nuts but I can't stop.I have to rock until my body is so exhausted, my body crashes and sleeps. I don't have stress in my life,it's just something I must do..

Apr 14, 2015
Starting to worry NEW
by: Anonymous

I have rocked on all fours in a repetitive motion(like being curled into a ball)with my head down and blankets on me since i was a baby,my mother tried various things to help me but i am now 21 and am having a huge difficulty sleeping with out rocking. All my life i've done it and its never changed.My biggest concern is that i'll find my self "going to bed" then four or maybe even five hours later at night and relize ive been rocking the whole time, often waking from verry vivd dreams that i cant have unless im rocking. I want to know more about it. Also i would like to know if theres away to fix it

Jun 25, 2015
sleep rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

Recently my 6 year old cousin came to visit. My mom told me that she does it and it's because she was neglected as a baby. It's there way of comforting themselves. It was about 5:30 am so she would of been in a deep sleep. I had woken up because I had mouth pain from my braces. She kind of just stirred in her sleep then sat up and started rocking back in forth like she where in a rocking chair. It creeped me out because her eyes are open while she does it but she's asleep.

Jul 10, 2015
Rocking and rolling NEW
by: Anonymous

This really made me happy seeing others who struggle with the same thing as me. All my life I thought I was the only one in the world who rocked back and fourth.When I saw other peoples comments I started to cry because it almost sounded like I wrote the other comments.Ive been struggling with this for as long as I could remember. The older I've gotten, the longer I would do it. I would lie down in my bed facing the left, put my arm under my side and rock back and fourth for hours. I even listen to music while I'm doing it. I would also fantasize about how I wish my life would be. I was always afraid to ask someone why I do it and how to prevent it but I was always afraid of being judged.

Aug 21, 2015
rocking in his sleep NEW
by: Jennie I

My son has rocked in his sleep since being a baby,he is now 15, I'm not particularly worried,but what happens when he has a bed partner? Should I be concerned? He's clever,plays rugby and keeps fit.Any ideas anyone?

Sep 03, 2015
Worried NEW
by: Vic

My good friend violently shakes his had back and fourth during sleeping, sometimes hard enough to make me think he's going to break his neck. Its really scary. lasting anywhere from a few mins to 10 or 15. He never wakes up during these episodes and is always laying on his back when it happens. Please help me find answers some one.

Sep 05, 2015
Rocking NEW
by: RH

i am a 46 year old w/m who has been rocking to fall asleep and or rocking myself to sleep all of my life. I have had sleep studies done and fought the urge to rock, because of embarrassment and was told I have sleep apnea. I was doing some research on the Internet when I ran across this. I also suffer from depression and was seeing if there was a link. Now after reading the artical I will go and have a sleep study done.

Sep 21, 2015
rocking not only at night night during the day awake also NEW
by: Anonymous

Plz help I seem to have a nervous tick I think add u have described. Burt it assures all the time, Not just at bed time. Plus at bed time it's not when I'm asleep (that I know of) but to put me to sleep out seems. It's very annoying and embarrassing towards my partner. Plz help if possible. Paula. pjabrown1@gmail.com

Oct 18, 2015
Me too NEW
by: Kt

I'm a 51 year old female. I was hospitalised as a baby and almost died. After that I rocked my head well into adulthood. Often I would sing to music or do this odd sing song sound. I ceased doing it at about 40 but because my neck is such a mess and I get vertigo. However I still get that extremely addictive urge sometime. My son has autism and I have adult add. Looking back I think it came on as a self soothing mechanism to deal with almost dying as a baby. In those days mums didn't stay overnight and mine was not at all affectionate as far as I can remember. I actually regret the fact I can't head rock anymore. I battle depression and it would be lovely to escape into that works if it didn't spun me out!

I've had many lovers audit never bothered them. Stand up and be proud! We have all merely found away to deal with the stresses of life. Head rockets unite! ;ps I am also s vivid dreamer- are you?)

Nov 07, 2015
Shaking head NEW
by: Cass

I have always rocked my head side to side to go to bed since I was young. I am 20 now and I still do it. It soothes me and helps me fall asleep. When I was younger I rocked my head for aggressively side to side with my arms. As time went on I slowly started to just use my head and I go a lot slower than when I was younger. It does not bother me, when I sleep with my boyfriend or a friend I just don't do it. Sometimes it can take a while to fall asleep. It just depends on how tired I am. If I go days without doing it (due to being on vacation for example) I can get kind of restless I have a urge to. But other than that it has not had a great impact on my life. So for anyone who is younger I would say don't worry about it :)

Nov 09, 2015
Rocks in sleep NEW
by: Anonymous

My boyfriend rocks in his sleep. He lays on his side and rocks and shakes his head. Sometimes it's all night in small episodes and when he is really stressed or having a bad dream he shakes the whole bed. Im a light sleeper so any movement wakes me up. It's frustrating but I love him to bits and I'm guessing from the comments it's something we just have to deal with

Dec 11, 2015
45 and still head banging NEW
by: Annoyed and Tired

Hello,
I am a 45 year old male and have ALWAYS banged my head at night to fall asleep. I rock or bang my head until I am tired enough that I fall asleep. It usually takes 2-4 hours every night. My wife of 20 years is an Angel for putting up with this. The only thing I found that helps is pain medication. I am totally relaxed when I am on them and DO NOT move when falling asleep. I wish I had a better option. One thing I thought about trying is pot. I have never tried it but wonder if it will keep me relaxed like the pain meds do. I did try all the other medications but none worked. I can't believe that someone hasn't come up with a solution in all this time. Good luck to all of you and may we find relief soon for not only us but for our spouses as well!

Dec 30, 2015
Lifer 36 years NEW
by: Dylan

I've been rocking my whole life (in utero as well) My mother use to tell me she thought I was a reincarnated Yogi. I've never sat up though, always laying on my back. As I grew older, and more self conscious of it as I started sharing a bed with female partners and such, I started sleeping on my stomach. If I'm sleeping alone, I rock to my hearts content. Glad to see their are others!

Dec 30, 2015
Furthermore..... NEW
by: Dylan

For myself, I truly believe it is my portal to deeper consciousness. It has never caused me any trouble, aside from embarrassment when caught, but I have pretty much gotten passed that. All the near and dear people in my life are aware of it.

Mar 10, 2016
Rocking NEW
by: Rich

As long as I can remember I have rocked back-and-forth in my sleep. I am now 63 years old. I don't think I have ever felt like I have been rusted and got a good nights sleep my entire life. I guess because of my age I'm now asking someone why they think I do this. I am always tired right now it's 4 o'clock in the morning. I didn't go to bed till 11 so I live on 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night. I'm very active for my age and I've always worked in a high stress industry for the past 30+ years. I have a type a personality IE get it done. I also talked in my sleep and will swing my arm wildly occasionally. I have hit the bed or pillow violently on occasion and that is scared me because if I was to hit someone it would certainly injure them.
So that's it what can you tell me, thank you.

Mar 30, 2016
RMD NEW
by: still

Hi, I have also been rocking my entire life. I'm 64 and my parents said I've rocked since I was old enough to move on my own. I also sleep walk, sleep talk, move my legs and feet all night if not doing one of the other. I also can not sit still during the day. I "shift" quietly all day long. I grind my teeth and clench my jaw, TMJ. Why this happens, no one knows. It's also Restless Leg Syndrome. My mother told me her doctor gave her diet pills when she was pregnant with me, so she wouldn't gain weight. Maybe it's that reason. She said she only took them in the beginning, if I remember correctly. Anyone had mothers who took diet pills during pregnancy?

Apr 29, 2016
rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

I am a 50 year old male who has rocked for as long as I can remember. I rock from one side to about 1/2 way to being on my back. It has caused cronic pain in my sit bone. It is a comfort thing that I don't understand. try to stop before it stops you. I understand the shame and the fact that you don't want to tell anyone because they may think you are crazy but you need to try to stop. again, it has something to do with comfort or we would not do it. It could be a habit. I don't know for sure but try to stop for your own health sake.
I understand.









May 05, 2016
Rocking since Infancy NEW
by: Anonymous

I'm a 31 year old female and I've been rocking since infancy. My mother said I used to get chronic ear infections when I was a baby, so I started rocking side to side and creating insane knotty nests in my hair, but alas, no more ear infections since developing this sleeping habit. Unfortunately, I was never able to break it. I generally wake up entombed in my own arms and occasionally I wake up sitting and talking in my sleep. This completely freaks out anyone who sees me or walks into my bedroom. Serious neck pain and lower back pain is starting to become more frequent. Any advice on how to stop?

Oct 01, 2016
Help NEW
by: T.k.

I have been rocking in my sleep since I was a baby and im 15 now. At 6 months I broke my crib. and my doctors didn't believe it. Everyday I wake up with my hair so so tangled. I wake up in the postion of rocking. The only times I don't do it is when I'm sleeping on the couch or chair. Sometimes I do it because it really helps me fall asleep. I don't want to continue doing this, but I don't know if it can stop. I want to be able to sleep like a normal person . I don't really stay the night at peoples houses because of this. Anything I can do?

Oct 08, 2016
Does anyone with RMD do it whilst listening to music aswell as every other habit when facing RMD NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi everyone with RMD I've read most of your comments and have only just started to research things because I wanted to know if I was the only one in this world who does it ? After finding out other people all round the world do it I now do not feel like a outcast, my RMD is bit messed up as my mum told me when I was a baby sleeping in my cot she had to put double bumper all round my cot as I would head rock left to right in my sleep ,this continued through out my child hood and my mum or family at the time would wake me up and tell me to stop also I have actually woken myself up doing it to! I'm nearly 28 now and don't really do it either in my sleep anymore or to get myself to sleep anymore but more so whenever I get a chance when I'm on my own and especially when listening to music ! As a matter of fact I put music on just to do it because I use it as an escape from reality and the troubles I've had and stil having now ? I've always loved music and always will as its a passion of mine and rocking and listening at the same time is defenatly a comfort thing aswel as a sleep disorder. I've always had trouble getting to sleep so after seeing & researching RMD it all now makes sense now thanks guys ! From Gemma Webb X

Nov 09, 2016
More Common Than Thought NEW
by: Anonymous

Wow. I'm 31 w/m and have almost cried reading through these comments. I've been embarrassed my whole life and thought how am I ever going to be able to sleep in a bed with my future wife? Once my girlfriend now wife witnessed it the first time she said she was a little freaked out. Once I explained it to her she decided that it wasn't enough to keep us apart :)

My mom used to wake me up in the middle of the night as a baby and rocked me...which I never knew, but always wondered why I had such a restlessness and could NOT sleep unless I did it. My wife talked to her about it and she said that was probably why. My wife tells me sometimes I wake her up, or have bumped/hit her, but I have no idea. She usually puts a pillow behind me and says it stops. Usually right before I fall asleep or wake up I will come to in the middle of it.

I used to self medicate with pot. If I used it right before I went to bed I never had the urge or woke up doing it. Worked like a charm. Only one problem...it's illegal. So, I had to come to terms a lot with possible jail time just to have a normal night of sleep for a few days, but I thought it was totally worth it. Haven't touched the stuff in over 2 years and rocking is back like it never left. Hopefully I will be able to overcome this one day without feeling like a criminal...

Nov 29, 2016
Sheep rocking NEW
by: Anonymous

I have been suffering my whole life rocking in my sleep embarrassing sometimes there is nothing I can do about it I seem to do it when I'm stressed and run down more than any other time sometimes I can feel myself doing it and rock faster and faster for some reason it feels comfortable but really interferes for your sleep literally you can wake up in the morning and feel like you've not been to sleep if you have had a very rough night of rocking I am with a new partner at present and it can be very embarrassing when she wakes me up in the night letting me know that I am rocking is there a cure for this does anybody know.

Dec 06, 2016
Embarrassed, Worn Out, and Sick of It NEW
by: Just Me

I'm a 50 year old male and I have rocked my entire life. I go into a semi-fetal position on my right side and rock my body back and forth pretty much all night long. My head goes more, and I have a nearly constantly sore neck and bone deterioration from it. I'm a terrible insomniac and hardly get any sleep.


My friends want me to go to a sleep clinic, but I'm too embarrassed about the rocking to go. I don't want ANYONE to see me do it.


Things like melatonin or valerian or restless legs medication will help a bit for a night or two. Then it's back to rocking for hour after hour awake, and then continue in broken sleep for the rest of the night. Then get up in the morning utterly worn out. And I dream epically and vividly when I actually manage to fall asleep.

Fortunately I am self employed with a thriving internet business, so I can cat nap during the day in my recliner, or I'd go completely nuts.


WHY hasn't SOMEONE come up with some kind of solution for this? I used to think I was the only one in the entire world with such a crazy problem, but there are lots of us, just no solutions.

Dec 06, 2016
leg body RMDer NEW
by: Chris Jackson

Me too, been at it for years...plus Ive had a right good laugh reading others' experiences so much I fell asleep with only my toe wiggling.

Seriously also, my parents used to think I was prefusely masturbating each night whem my RMD occured. I tried to explain but they didn't understand (pre internet days of the early 70's) so I ended up not bothering to hide the fact that I actually did masturbate a lot until my parents realised the difference, booked me into a clinic for electrical shock therapy for self abuse. Afterwards my RMDs ended up as house shakers...I,m now 50 and been homeless for 10 years now. When I sleep in door ways sometimes people call ambulances because they think I am fitting or something, other people think I am damaging their property etc and call the police who end up calling an ambulance because they think I have OD'd ffs.

Please help

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