Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Find a Center
Use the following fields to locate sleep centers in your area.

Search radius:

Sleep Rhythmic Movement – Symptoms & Risk Factors


Your child may have RMD if:
  • They make repeated body motions, such as body rocking, head banging, or head rolling 
  • These body motions tend to occur when your child is drowsy or asleep 
  • These actions interfere with the child’s sleep, make the child sleepy or grumpy during the day, or the child suffers an injury that requires medical treatment
It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing your child’s sleep problems. They may be a result of one of the following:
  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

Risk Factors

It is very common in healthy infants and children. Body rocking begins at an average age of six months. Head banging begins at an average age of nine months. At nine months of age, 59% of all infants have been reported to have one of the following rhythmic movements:
  • Body rocking (43%)
  • Head banging (22%)
  • Head rolling (24%)
At 18 months of age, the overall rate drops to 33%. It commonly goes away by the second or third year of life. By five years of age, the rate is only 5%. 

It seems to occur at the same rate in both boys and girls. It may be more likely to occur among family members. One study found that children with body rocking had a higher level of anxiety.
RMD has been rarely reported in teens and adults. The condition may appear at an older age due to an injury to the central nervous system. In older children or adults, these actions may be related to one of the following:
  • Mental disability
  • Autism
  • Pervasive developmental disorder
In most of these cases, the motions are not sleep related. They tend to occur when the person is awake.
« return to Overview & Facts
continue to Diagnosis & Treatment »