Parasomnia: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

It refers to all the abnormal things that can happen to people while they sleep, in addition to sleep apnea .

Some examples are sleep-related eating disorder, sleepwalking , nightmares, sleep paralysis, REM sleep behavior disorder, and sleep aggression.

Sexsomnia, sometimes called “sleepy,” is also a parasomnia. It refers to sexual acts carried out by a person who is sleeping. Parasomnias can have negative effects on people during the day, including drowsiness.


Parasomnias can occur when a person is falling asleep or at any point in the sleep cycle.

If they occur while sleeping, a person may experience disturbing hallucinations or sleep paralysis, which is when the body cannot move for seconds or minutes. Sleep paralysis can be quite scary, especially when it occurs with hallucinations.

Parasomnias that occur during sleep, such as REM sleep behavior disorder (TCS), often involve vigorous and damaging behaviors that dreams represent.

TCS is a brain disorder that generally occurs in men over 50 years of age.

However, it can affect people of any age taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, and people with neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, narcolepsy, or stroke.

Other parasomnias that occur during sleep include nightmares and sleep-related moans, which can be loud and prevent a person’s bed partner or roommate from sleeping.

Additionally, there are parasomnias that occur when a person has abrupt and partial awakenings, such as confusional excitations, sleepwalking, night terrors, and sleep-related eating disorders.

Sleep-related hallucinations can also occur when a person wakes up.

What Causes a Parasomnia?

Parasomnias often run in families, so there is probably a genetic factor in many cases. Brain disorders can be responsible for some parasomnias, like many cases of REM sleep behavior disorder.

Parasomnias can also be triggered by other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and by various medications.

Who is at risk for parasomnias?

Parasomnias affect approximately 10% of Americans. They occur in people of all ages, but are more common in children. Children are particularly vulnerable due to the immaturity of the brain.

The good news is that they are generally not associated with negative health consequences and disappear as the child matures. A person must wake up during an episode of parasomnia.

Trying to wake up a “parasomniac in action,” especially by shaking or yelling, can sometimes trigger an irritable, aggressive, or violent response. Therefore, gently redirect the person to bed by guiding them by the elbow and speaking quietly.

How can a parasomnia be protected?

Door alarms can help by waking someone up during an episode. Also, a person suffering from parasomnias should not sleep in an upper bunk, or next to a window.

It is important to remove sharp objects from the bed area and make sure roommates and family members are aware of the problem and what to do about it.

How are parasomnias treated and when should someone with a parasomnia seek evaluation and possible treatment?

Many people who suffer from parasomnias see an improvement in their symptoms simply by improving their sleep habits. Good sleep habits include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, having a relaxing bedtime routine, and getting enough sleep.

There are also drug therapies used to control symptoms. A person should seek treatment whenever there is a risk of injuring oneself or another person from the parasomnia.

Additionally, it is important to seek treatment if the parasomnia interrupts the person’s own sleep or the sleep of the bed partner or roommate, if there is distress about the symptoms (for example, nightmares) or if the frequency is quite high. or climbing.

A nightly sleep lab study may be needed. It is important to note that no matter how bizarre, strange, or violent the behavior is, a parasomnia is rarely related to a psychiatric disorder.

However, people with parasomnias can suffer ridicule, confusion, and / or embarrassment about their symptoms. Additionally, bedmates, family members, and roommates may suffer from sleep loss as a result of the parasomnia.

In many cases, seeking help from a therapist or support group can help people with parasomnias and those close to them deal with these issues.