What are Parasomnias

Parasomnias are unwanted physical events or experiences that happen while falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up.

Key Points

  • Parasomnias involve sleep-related behaviors and experiences that you can’t control
  • Parasomnias occur when aspects of sleep and wakefulness overlap
  • Parasomnias may include strange movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions or dreams
  • You usually remain asleep during the event and may have no memory that it occurred.

General Overview

Parasomnias may include abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions or dreams. The behaviors may be complex and appear purposeful to others, but you are asleep while the behavior is taking place. Often you will have no memory that it occurred.  If you have a parasomnia, you may find it hard to sleep through the night. Some parasomnias involve incomplete arousal from deep sleep. Others emerge during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Types of parasomnias are:

  • Confusional Arousals Mental confusion or confused behavior that occurs while you are in bed.
  • Sleep Related Eating Disorder Out-of-control eating that occurs while you are only partially awake.
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder You act out violent, action-packed dreams while you are asleep.
  • Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis You are unable to move your body as you are falling asleep or waking up.
  • Bedwetting You urinate in your bed while sleeping.
  • Nightmare Disorder You have disturbing dreams that cause distress or bedtime anxiety.
  • Exploding Head Syndrome You imagine a sudden, loud noise or explosion in your head while falling asleep or waking up.
  • Sleep Related Hallucinations You imagine seeing something or someone in your room while falling asleep or waking up.
  • Sleepwalking You get out of bed and walk while sleeping.
  • Sleep Terrors You sit up in bed with a loud cry or fearful scream.

Am I at Risk

Parasomnias have a genetic basis. Your risk is higher if other family members are affected. Parasomnias also are common in children. Parasomnias can be triggered by sleep deprivation, stress or trauma. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea also can trigger parasomnias

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