Parasomnias | Nightmares | Confusional Arousals | Bruxism | Sleep Paralysis

Parasomnias - Causes and Treatment


Nightmares are vivid nocturnal events that can cause feelings of fear, terror, and/or anxiety.

Sleep specialists term a "bad dream" a nightmare if the sleeper is aroused from REM sleep and can recall the dream, often in great detail.

A nightmare is composed of a very vivid and frightening dream.

Usually, the person having a nightmare has difficulty returning to sleep. Nightmares can be caused by many factors including anxiety, illness, the loss of a loved one, or negative reactions to a medication

Common themes include another person assaulting, attacking, or chasing the person having the dream. Nightmares are normal in children and adults.

They are indicative of an unresolved issue or a psychological problem that still troubles the individual, such as what to do if attacked. When the problem is solved, the nightmare disappears.

Confusional Arousals:

Confusional arousals usually occur when a person is awakened from a deep sleep during the first part of the night. This disorder, which also is known as excessive sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness, involves an exaggerated slowness upon awakening.

Confusional arousal is more common in children than adults. People experiencing confusional arousals react slowly to commands and may have trouble understanding questions that they are asked. The affected person cries out and thrashes around.

Attempts to comfort the person are unsuccessful. After a period of time (possibly as long as half and hour), the person calms, wakes up briefly, and then falls back asleep. In addition, people with confusional arousal often have problems with short-term memory.

Sleep Bruxism [Teeth Grinding]:

Grinding of teeth or bruxism, is a common nighttime occurrence. Sleep bruxism involves the involuntary, unconscious, and excessive grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep.

Most teeth grinders are unaware of their parasomnia. It may occur along with other sleep disorders. Sleep bruxism may lead to problems including abnormal wear of the teeth and jaw muscle discomfort.

The severity of bruxism can range from mild cases to severe cases that involve evidence of dental injury. Chronic teeth grinding can lead to dental damage or injury.

In some cases, bruxism can be prevented with the use of a mouth guard.

The mouth guard, supplied by a dentist, can fit over the teeth to prevent teeth from grinding against each other.

Rhythmic Movement Disorder:

Rhythmic movement disorder occurs mostly in children who are one year old or younger. The child may engage in head banging, head rolling, body rolling or body rocking just before falling asleep.

Over sixty percent of nine-month-old infants experience it to some degree. The disorder usually occurs just before a person falls asleep.

Sleep Paralysis:

During REM dreaming, the body experiences a temporary paralysis. People with sleep paralysis are not able to move their body or limbs when falling asleep or waking up. Brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis can occur during sleep paralysis.

Being suddenly unable to move can be both frightening and discomforting. This disorder is not harmful, but people experiencing sleep paralysis often are fearful because they do not know what is happening.

An episode of sleep paralysis often is terminated by sound or touch. Within minutes, the person with sleep paralysis is able to move again.

Causes of Arousal Disorders / Parasomnias

These disorders tend to run in families and are more common in children. The disorders may cause due to some medications. In some cases, these disorders are triggered by other conditions, such as sleep apnea, heartburn, or periodic limb movement during sleep. A sleep specialist should evaluate the person's behaviors and medical history.

Parasomnias Treatment

If it is a severe case that leads to injury or involves violence, excessive eating, or disturbs the bed partner or family, treatment by a sleep specialist may be necessary.

Treatment might involve medical intervention with behavior modification or prescription drugs through hypnosis or relaxation/mental imagery.

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