Parasomnia

What are parasomnias?
An individual with a parasomnia exhibits abnormal behavioral or physiological activity (such as sleepwalking) during sleep or in the transitional stage between sleep and wake.

What are the main types of parasomnias?
There several disorders that are considered a parasomnia, including:
Confusional Arousals: Waking in a foggy state with symptoms that may include slow speech, confused thinking, poor memory or direct responses
Sleepwalking: Walking in room other than the bedroom while asleep
Sleep/Night Terrors: Waking in intense fear with little to no memory of the dream
Sleep Eating Disorder: binge-eating while asleep or in the transitional stage having little to memory of the event
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Acting out dreams while asleep
Sleep Paralysis: Not being able to move your body when falling asleep or waking up
Bedwetting (sleep enuresis): Urinating in your sleep

Sleep Hallucinations: Vivid imagined events that seem real when falling asleep or waking up
Sleep Talking: Talking out loud while sleeping

What are the steps to getting diagnosed?
Each person's journey to becoming diagnosed with a sleep disorder is different; however, generally, an individual would first need to bring their concerns to their physician and potentially be referred to a sleep specialist if needed.  Bringing specific information, including detailed information on symptoms as well as concerns, is helpful.

Parasomnias are generally diagnosed through an in-depth discussion of your symptoms and medical history, which may include completion of a sleep diary.  Your physician may also have you complete an in-center sleep test (polysomnography) to record your behavior during sleep.


How are parasomnias typically treated?
Although there is no cure for parasomnias, there are several treatment options available to treat parasomnias, including environmental and sleep hygiene changes, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Work with your physician to determine the best treatment option for you. 

Environmental/Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene is your bedtime habits, such as what you do to get ready for bed and how your bedroom is set-up.  By improving or changing your sleep hygiene, this can help to improve your sleep.  This may include: instituting a regular sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, practicing restful activities prior to sleep, and removing electronics from the bedroom.  This may also include introducing scheduled naps into your sleeping schedule.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy that treats the parasomnia by addressing the emotions, thoughts and behaviors contributing to the individual's parasomnia.  It usually includes practices that reduce stress, increase relaxation, and improve sleep hygiene and general sleep management.

Medication: There are several medications available to help treat the symptoms of specific parasomnias. You should work with your medical team to find the best options for you. 


If you feel that you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary physician or a sleep specialist regarding your concerns.

*The information above does not constitute medical advice; you should talk with your physician or healthcare provider regarding your medical care, including appropriate treatment options.


Member Only Resource: Parasomnias
This informational sheet provides additional information regarding parasomnias and can be used as a resource for patients or for medical professionals to provide as supplemental information for their patients. AAHS members will have indefinite access to these informational sheets through the file archive on your member account.