Parasomnias are disorders of arousal, partial arousal, or sleep stage transition. They represent episodic disorders such as sleep walking (somnambulism), night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder, nocturnal seizures and enuresis.
Parasomnias include a variety of disorders such as sleep walking (somnambulism), night eating, sleep-related bruxism (tooth grinding), nightmares, night terrors, and REM sleep behavior disorder. Parasomnias occur most commonly in children, but adults can experience parasomnias at any age. For example, night eating appears to occur most commonly in young female patients, and REM sleep behavior disorder appears to be most common in elderly men.
Most parasomnias involve some behavioral abnormality that occurs during sleep. For example, sleepwalkers may rise from bed, walk about the house, and finally come to rest somewhere other than their beds. While most sleep walking is benign, some sleepwalkers engage in remarkable behaviors during their excursions, such as eating during sleep. Some parasomnias involve some violent (e.g., hitting a spouse), bizarre or unhealthy (e.g., eating large amounts of food or unusual food items), or even criminal behavior during sleep.
Parasomnias require a careful evaluation by a physician. Behavioral treatments or medications may be appropriate. One of the doctor’s primary concerns is the health and safety of the patient, as well as the safety of others in the patient’s environment.