Parasomnias are disorders
of partial arousal or disorders that interfere with sleep stage
transitions. Abnormal events occur during sleep. The International
Classification of Sleep Disorders lists four subcategories of parasomnia
disorders: arousal, sleep-wake transition, REM sleep, and other.
These are disorders of partial arousal (being
Confusional arousals. Confusion
during and following arousals from sleep, most typically from deep sleep
in the first part of the night.
Sleepwalking. Walking during sleep. About 1 to 15% of
the population sleepwalks. It is more common in children than in
adolescents and adults.
Sleep terrors. A sudden arousal from slow wave sleep
with a scream or cry, accompanied by symptoms of intense fear.
These parasomnias are
disorders that interfere with sleep stage transitions:
disorder. Repetitive bodyrocking and headrolling
of infants and toddlers, as they are falling asleep and just staring
Sleep starts. Very common sudden brief contractions of
the legs (and sometimes arms and head) just as sleep is beginning.
In rare cases, extreme sleep starts can cause sleep onset
Sleep talking. Talking or making sounds during sleep
without the sleeper being aware. This is common; in rare cases, the
noise can be a major annoyance to a sleep partner.
Nocturnal leg cramps. A painful muscle tightness in the calf
or occasionally in the foot during sleep. More prevalent in the
elderly and after vigorous exercise.
associated with REM sleep
These parasomnias occur during the
rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. Common examples include:
Nightmares. Frightening dreams that usually awaken
the sleeper from REM sleep. Half of adults have occasional
nightmares; 1% of adults have nightmares once or more per week.
Sleep paralysis. Inability to move at beginning of sleep
or after awakening.
REM sleep behavior
disorder. A disorder of unusual movements and or verbalization
related to REM sleep, at times associated with injury to the sleeper
Other parasomnias include the following:
abnormal swallowing syndrome.
Inadequate swallowing of saliva, causing coughing,
choking and brief arousals or awakenings from sleep.
paroxysmal dystonia. Nighttime involuntary muscle contractions during
non-REM sleep. (During REM or dreaming sleep, the body can move
involuntarily.) The contractions can cause twisting movements,
abnormal postures, limb movements, fidgeting and/or writhing. The
attacks usually last 30 to 45 seconds. They can occur as often as
five times a night or as few as five per year.
Central Hypoventilation Syndrome.
A rare condition with slow and shallow breathing,
resulting in an increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood. CCHS
is unexplained by primary pulmonary disease or ventilatory muscle
Central or obstructive sleep apneas in infants.
Pre-term infants have an increased risk.
Death Syndrome (SIDS). The sudden death of an infant under one year of age
which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation. Very
little is known about the causes, and there is no method for
absolute prevention. A number of websites have
links about how to lessen the risk of SIDS.
Treatment for parasomnias
The cause and treatment of
parasomnias varies depending on an individual's situation and case
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NOTE: Sleep health information
discussed at this website is for educational purposes. Each individual is
different and may have varying symptoms, diagnosis and treatments.
If you are having sleep health
problems, obtain professional medical advice.