Parasomnia | REM Behavior Disorder | Sleep Walking | Sleep Talking | Night Terrors | Parasomnias


Parasomnia is a broad term used to describe various uncommon disruptive sleep-related disorders.

Parasomnias are disruptive sleep-related disorders that can occur during arousals from REM sleep or partial arousals from Non-REM sleep.

Parasomnias are intense, infrequent physical acts that occur during sleep.

Some common parasomnias include REM behavior disorder(RBD), sleepwalking, sleep talking, night terrors, nightmares, confusion arousals, teeth grinding, rhythmic movement disorders, sleep paralysis

Types of Parasomnia

Impaired Sleep Related Penile Erections:

This disorder occurs among men who are unable to maintain a penile erection during sleep that would be sufficiently severe enough to engage in sexual intercourse. Men usually experience erections as a part of REM sleep, and impaired sleep-related erections may indicate erectile dysfunction.

Nocturnal Leg Cramps:

Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions of the calf muscles that occur during the night or periods of rest. The cramping sensation may last from a few seconds to 10 minutes, but the pain from the cramps may remain for a longer period. The cramps can affect persons in any age-group, but they tend to happen in middle-aged and older populations.

Nocturnal Paroxysmal Dystonia (NPD):

Nocturnal paroxysmal dystonia (NPD) is a complex motor attack arising abruptly during sleep, especially nonrapid eye movement sleep. NPD is characterized by sudden arousal followed by motor agitation with dystonic posturing, and semi purposeful activity returning several times per night. Most evidence points to NPD being a form of epilepsy.

Nocturnal Seizures:

These seizures, which occur only during sleep, can cause the sufferer to cry, shout, walk, run about, or curse. Like other seizures, these are usually treated with medication.

REM Behavior Disorder [RBD]:

Rapid eye movement behavior disorder, or RBD, is a serious REM sleep disorder that can cause injuries. The body usually experiences atonia, or a temporary paralysis, during dreaming. This is a safety precaution that prevents us from physically acting out our dreams

The exact cause for the disorder is unknown. People can usually remember their dreams, but have no awareness of moving around while asleep. The condition can cause injuries to both the dreamer and family members.

RBD Treatment:

A polysomnography test is required to diagnosis RBD. If symptoms of RBD are severe enough, separate bedrooms may be required for the sufferer and their bed partner. Bedrooms should be on the ground floor to prevent the RBD sufferer from falling downstairs and dangerous objects in the bedroom should be removed.

REM Sleep Cardiac Arrhythmias:

 A cardiac arrhythmia is a change from the regular rate or control of the hearts contractions. People who have coronary artery disease and whose blood oxygen is lowered by sleep-disordered breathing may be at risk for arrhythmias, which take place during REM sleep. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment may reduce this risk.

Sleep Enuresis (bedwetting):

Sleep Enuresis or Nocturnal Enuresis is an inability to control the flow of urine at night. There are two kinds of enuresis: primary and secondary. In primary enuresis, a person has been unable to have bladder control from infancy onward. In secondary enuresis, a person has accidental wetting after having had bladder control for six or more months.

Sleep Walking:

Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is perhaps the best-known arousal disorder. Sleepwalking occurs when a person appears to be awake and moving around but is actually asleep.

Sleepwalkers have no memory of their actions. Sleepwalking most often occurs during deep non-REM sleep (stages 3 and 4 sleep) early in the night. It can occur during REM sleep in the early morning.

Sleepwalkers are usually children, although the disorder can occur in adults. Sleepwalking appears to run in families. The sleepwalker simply may be confused or disoriented for a short time upon awakening.

Although waking a sleepwalker is not dangerous, sleepwalking itself can be dangerous because the sleepwalker is unaware of his or her surroundings and can bump into objects or fall down.

Sleep Talking:

Sleep talking is a sleep-wake transition disorder. Sleep talking or somniloquy, is harmless and usually temporary. Although it usually is harmless, sleep talking can be disturbing to sleep partners or family members who witness it.

Talk that occurs during sleep can be brief and involve simple sounds, or it can involve long speeches by the sleeper. The sleeper usually has no memory of their action and it does not affect sleep. Sleep talking can be caused by external factors including fever, emotional stress or other sleep disorders.

Sleep Related Painful Erections:

Erections are a normal component of REM sleep for men. In some cases, however, erections become painful and cause a man to wake up. The treatment of sleep-related painful erections may involve drugs that suppress REM sleep.

Sleep Terrors / Night Terrors:

A person experiencing a night terror or sleep terror abruptly awakes from sleep in a terrified state. The person who has a sleep terror will have signs of intense fear, such as wide eyes with dilated pupils, racing heart, sweating, and rapid breathing.

Episodes usually occur during the first hour of falling asleep, the point at which deep sleep begins, and last about 15 minutes. After the episode, the person returns to sleep, unable to remember the incident in the morning because he or she was never fully awake.

Night terrors usually occur during stage 3 or stage 4 sleep, the deepest stages of sleep, and children have more deep sleep than adults. Night terrors are similar to nightmares, but night terrors usually occur during deep sleep.

People experiencing night terrors may pose dangers to themselves or others because of limb movements. Night terrors are fairly common in children aged three to five. Strong emotional tension and/or the use of alcohol can increase the incidence of night terrors among adults.

For children and adults, night terrors can be the result of stress, psychological disturbance or sleep deprivation. Sleeping in a different bed may also trigger episodes of night terrors.

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