What are parasomnias?
The term ‘Parasomnia’ can refer to any one of many different types of disorders or abnormal behaviors that people can exhibit during sleep. These include (but are not limited to)… sleep-related eating disorders, nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, sleep aggression, sexsomnia, and many others.
Parasomnias can occur during any part of the natural sleep cycle. They can happen as an individual is falling asleep, in the middle of the REM cycle, or even as the person is waking up – especially if they wake up startled or suddenly. Disturbing hallucinations can sometimes occur during Parasomnias, such as those famously experienced by people who suffer from sleep paralysis – a condition in which the body is unable to move for several seconds or minutes.
Most of the time, Parasomnias are experienced on such a mild scale that they don’t really draw any attention to the individual experiencing them. The symptoms, in such cases, tend to be mild and harmless.
But in some cases, they can be severe enough to warrant medical intervention. They can even put the person suffering from them at risk – especially if they are the type that falls under the ‘REM Sleep Behavior Disorder’ label.
What are some of the most common types of Parasomnias?
Here’s a list of some of the more common Parasomnias, and the behaviors that they’re characterized by.
- Confusional Arousals
This occurs when an individual ‘wakes up’, but is confused and groggy for a few minutes to a few hours after the fact. They often have no recollection of the early stages of being awake, and may act strangely.
- Night Terrors
People experiencing night terrors will often wake up screaming in terror. They may or may not remember a terrifying dream. This Parasomnia can be particularly distressing to sleeping partners.
This is, perhaps, the most well-known of all of the Parasomnias. People who suffer from this condition often wake up and ‘walk around’ during their sleep. When they truly wake up, they’ll usually have no recollection of the activity.
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
This is a potentially dangerous disorder in which the individual acts out vivid dreams as they’re sleeping. The dreams may be very physically active, and even violent. It can result in personal injury or injury to others if it gets bad enough.
- Sleep Paralysis
This Parasomnia is characterized by the individual being unable to move their body when they’re falling asleep or waking up. They are usually fully aware and can move around, but they cannot move – which may induce frightening hallucinations and panic.
- Nightmare Disorder
This condition is characterized by frequent nightmares that disturb your quality of sleep. Everyone has nightmares – but people with this parasomnia will tend to have them far more often.
- Sleep Talking
This is a more common condition in which the individual speaks, talks, or even holds conversations during sleep. They’ll generally be unable to remember the event after they wake up.
- Sleep Related Eating Disorder
This is a Parasomnia that causes the individual to binge-eat during sleep. They’ll usually consume a large amount of food in a short period of time, and may eat strange flavor combinations. People who suffer from this condition may be a danger to themselves, because they can burn themselves while cooking, could cause fires by leaving the stove on, or may even eat toxic substances.
Parasomnias affect about 10% of Americans. As a general rule, you can help to improve the condition by improving your sleeping habits – which is how most people go about treating them. Sometimes, however, drug therapies or even stress management can help to lessen the symptoms.
If you feel that you’re suffering from a Parasomnia and fear that it could be dangerous or harmful, then you might want to talk to your doctor about it. These types of disorders should never be ignored, as they can certainly cause problems if left unchecked. At the very least, they can impact your quality of sleep – which can, in turn, impact your overall state of health and well-being.