Parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders characterised by abnormal behaviors, movements, or experiences during sleep. These events can occur during different stages of sleep, including the transition between sleep stages. There are several types of parasomnias, including:
- Sleepwalking (Somnambulism): This parasomnia involves getting out of bed and walking around while still asleep. Sleepwalkers may perform various activities, from simple movements to complex tasks, all without awareness or memory of the events.
- Night Terrors (Sleep Terrors): Night terrors are intense episodes of fear and panic during sleep. They often involve screaming, rapid heart rate, and sometimes physical movements. Individuals experiencing night terrors are usually difficult to awaken and have little to no recollection of the event afterward.
- Sleep Talking (Somniloquy): Sleep talking involves uttering words, phrases, or even conversations during sleep. While it can be disruptive to bed partners, it is usually harmless and not remembered by the person talking in their sleep.
- Sleep Eating Disorder (Nocturnal Eating Syndrome): Individuals with this parasomnia consume food during nighttime awakenings, often in large quantities. They may have no memory of these episodes.
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD): In RBD, individuals physically act out their dreams during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage. This can involve movements like punching, kicking, or vocalisations. Unlike most parasomnias, RBD often occurs in older adults and can be associated with neurodegenerative disorders.
Parasomnias can disrupt sleep patterns and, in some cases, pose safety risks. Management may include improving sleep hygiene, addressing underlying sleep disorders, and, in severe cases, medication or behavioural therapies. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you or a loved one experiences parasomnia symptoms to determine the most appropriate treatment and ensure overall sleep quality and safety.