It’s not uncommon to talk in your sleep every once in a while, and you probably know someone who would sleep walk as a child. But sometimes these strange occurrences while we sleep can affect our daily lives. If these nightly disruptions are creeping into your day and impairing your ability to be your best self, our sleep medicine doctors can help.
Parasomnia is a sleep disorder that causes abnormal behavior during sleep. This abnormal behavior can happen at any stage of sleep. Parasomnias are common but make it difficult for people to get a restful sleep and can also disrupt the sleep of others.
There are several types of parasomnia, including:
Walking while asleep is referred to as sleepwalking or somnambulism. Sleepwalking is a very common parasomnia and can also involve sleep talking or doing normal activities while asleep. Sleepwalking usually happens at night but can also happen during naps.
Sleep talking is also a very common type of parasomnia. This parasomnia is characterized by talking when a person is asleep. Talking can range from mumbling to full conversations. Sleep talking can happen during any part of the night but is easier to understand during lighter stages of sleep.
Loud groaning that happens during sleep is referred to as sleep-related groaning (catathrenia). This sound usually happens when a person exhales slowly and deeply. Sleep-related groans can sound like loud humming, roaring or high-pitched cracking sounds. In some cases, sleep-related groaning can be mistaken as snoring, but is not related to breathing issues.
Nightmares are intense or troubling dreams that can cause anger, anxiety or fear. Nightmares can make it difficult to fall back asleep and, in some cases, can happen multiple times a night. Nightmares usually happen during REM sleep, when a person is more likely to dream.
Night terrors, or sleep terrors, cause a person to suddenly wake up in a terrified state. Night terrors can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Night terrors can also cause:
Night terrors are different from nightmares because they usually involve little to no dream activity and happen during non-REM sleep.
Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is involuntary urination during sleep. It is most common in children (usually younger than 6 years old). Bedwetting usually occurs when the bladder has more urine than it can hold. Some cases of bedwetting don’t have an underlying cause, while others are due to other conditions, like urinary tract infections.
Confusional arousal is the experience of waking up feeling very confused. You may have trouble understanding what you’re doing or where you are. If you have confusional arousal, you may also experience other behaviors, like slow speech, crying, poor memory or slow reaction time.
Teeth grinding (sleep bruxism) causes a person to clench or grind their teeth while sleeping. This condition can cause soreness in the jaw, face or neck, tooth pain or sensitivity as well as earache-like pains.
A sleep-related eating disorder happens when a person binge eats and drinks during non-REM sleep. A person can be partly or fully conscious during this type of binge eating. These episodes happen frequently and are often accompanied with specific behaviors, such as:
People with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) have vivid dreams and act them out during REM sleep. People with REM sleep behavior disorder often exhibit certain behaviors, including grabbing, kicking, shouting, punching and jumping. This type of sleep disorder is different from nightmares because the person usually does not wake up or remember the episodes.
More unusual types of sleep parasomnias include:
Depending on the type of parasomnia, symptoms can vary. Aside from unusual behavior, parasomnia can cause other behaviors, like:
In many cases, parasomnia can be associated with other triggers, such as:
In order to diagnose parasomnia, your primary care doctor can help make an initial diagnosis but will likely refer you to a sleep specialist to further examine your sleep behavior. Diagnosis usually includes a review of your medical history, sleep history or a sleep study.
Parasomnia treatment depends on the type and severity of the parasomnia. In the cases of frequent or recurring parasomnia, medication can help manage it. Some medications prescribed to help treat parasomnia include:
However, if your parasomnia is caused by medication, your doctor may recommend a different medication or dose.
People with parasomnia may also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy often helps with mental health concerns, like stress and anxiety. Other methods that can be used alongside cognitive behavioral therapy include psychotherapy, relaxation therapy and hypnosis.
There are also some treatment options people can try at home, such as:
Parasomnia episodes can vary from person to person, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor to receive an individualized treatment plan. Our sleep medicine experts are here to help you get a safe and comfortable night’s sleep.