Hi Christine -
You are experiencing a mild case of REM Behavior Disorder. The fact that your symptoms increase with stress is common in RBD, and also illustrates an interesting consequence of tension. REM Behavior Disorder is a disorder of too much muscle tone - too much tension in the muscles - during sleep. Your stress - which is mental and emotional - is causing your entire body to tighten up - even into your sleep. And this is why you are "acting out" the behaviors of your dreams - your muscles aren't getting the signal they need to relax!
Because your symptoms appear mild, experts recommend a hot shower or bath before bedtime. This will relax your muscles and help you de-stress from the day's events. Taking fifteen minutes to stretch out before sleep also will help. Have you ever taken a yoga class? If not, you may find it enlightening. Yoga is as close to a science of stretching and release of tension as you'll find. All of these remedies, however - the shower, simple stretching at home, or the more advanced stretching of yoga - should cause an immediate and significant decrease in your symptoms.
If your REM behavior disorder (acting out your dreams) ever gets really bad, to the point that you hurt your boyfriend or endanger yourself, you'll need to schedule an appointment with a sleep doctor, to talk about more aggressive, medical interventions.
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