Parasomnias occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stages of sleep. In many parasomnias, a sleeper exhibits symptoms of being both asleep and awake. Learn how a parasomnia disorder can cause undesirable â€” or even dangerous â€” physical or verbal behaviors, and parasomnia treatment options.
Causes of Parasomnias
A number of factors cause parasomnias, including biological factors, stress and depression. Parasomnias tend to be more common in children than adults and may run in families.
A parasomnia disorder activates one or more physiological systems during the sleep cycle at inappropriate times. Some types of parasomnias, such as night terrors, bedwetting or sleep talking, are easy to identify, while others are more difficult to diagnose.
Also known as sleep terrors, night terrors cause fear, confused behavior and physical responses while the individual remains asleep. Night terror symptoms may include hallucinations, screaming, confusion, sweating and a glassy-eyed stare. During a night terror, you can’t comfort the individual, as he may thrash around or even become violent.
Night terrors usually only last for a brief period of time, after which the person then returns to sleep. Night terrors are most common in children, and most individuals don’t remember the incident the following morning.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
A potentially dangerous parasomnia disorder, REM sleep behavior disorder causes people to act out dreams (often violent) through body movements and sounds. This disorder generally occurs in older men, although anyone can suffer from it.
Here are some other parasomnia disorder types:
- Bedwetting, most common in children, interferes with bladder control while an individual is asleep.
- Confusional arousal describes an unusually slow response and confusion when awakened from deep sleep.
- Nocturnal leg cramps are painful cramps that interrupt sleep.
- Sleep paralysis causes temporary paralysis upon awakening.
- Sleep talking occurs when a person utters sounds or even full sentences during the sleep-wake transition of the sleep cycle.
- Sleepwalking can manifest as sitting up in bed, walking, or in extreme cases, driving while asleep.
- Teeth grinding causes people to clench or grind their teeth during sleep.
Some parasomnias resolve themselves after a period of time. If parasomnia symptoms worsen or seem to interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, however, parasomnia treatment may be necessary.
Parasomnia treatment often involves behavior modifications and lifestyle changes, though this depends on the individual parasomnia and its symptoms. If you have a parasomnia, you may find relief by getting a full night’s sleep, maintaining a regular sleeping schedule and treating underlying causes of parasomnias. You’ll also want to avoid alcohol, caffeine and illicit drugs.
If you’re seeking parasomnia treatment, report all medications to your doctor, as drug side effects and interactions may result in parasomnias.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2009). Preventing parasomnias. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.sleepeducation.com/Topic.aspx?id=62.
Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center. (2009). Parasomnias. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/3700/3728.asp?index=12133.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Night terrors. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/night-terrors/DS01016.