This time of year, ghouls and goblins are part of the fun of Halloween. We love the scary movies and the haunted houses that bring out the memories of our childhoods. But parasomnia - a category of sleep disorders characterized by abnormal behaviors, movements, emotions, perceptions, or physiological events that occur during sleep - aren’t worth celebrating with candy corn or costumes. Parasomnia is a disruptive sleep pattern that can lead to sleep disturbances and health issues.
Parasomnias can happen during different stages of sleep, including non-REM (rapid eye movement) and REM sleep, and they can vary in severity. There are many different types of parasomnias, and they can impact sleep in various ways:
Sleepwalking (Somnambulism): Sleepwalking involves getting out of bed and walking around while still asleep. Individuals who experience sleepwalking may perform complex actions and have no memory of it afterward. This can be dangerous as they might inadvertently injure themselves or others.
Nightmares: Nightmares are vivid and distressing dreams that often wake the person from sleep. They can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, as individuals may have difficulty falling back asleep after a nightmare.
Night Terrors: Night terrors are episodes of extreme fear, often accompanied by screaming and intense physiological arousal, such as rapid heart rate and sweating. They typically occur during non-REM sleep and can be very disruptive to sleep. Unlike nightmares, those experiencing night terrors might not remember the details upon waking up.
Sleep Talking (Somniloquy): Sleep talking involves speaking during sleep without being aware of it. While it may not always disrupt the sleep of the person talking, it can disturb the sleep of bed partners.
Sleep Eating Disorder: Individuals with sleep eating disorder engage in eating during sleep, often in a semi-conscious or unconscious state. This can result in unusual food consumption and potential health issues.
Sleep Paralysis: Sleep paralysis occurs when a person is temporarily unable to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. It can be accompanied by vivid hallucinations and can be quite frightening.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD): RBD involves acting out one's dreams during REM sleep. This can lead to physical movements, such as punching or kicking, which can be harmful to the individual or their sleep partner.
Exploding Head Syndrome: This rare parasomnia is characterized by hearing loud and sudden noises, such as explosions or gunshot sounds, when falling asleep or waking up. It can cause anxiety and sleep disturbances.
The impact of parasomnia on sleep varies depending on the specific disorder and its severity. Some parasomnias may result in only occasional disruptions, while others can significantly affect a person's overall sleep quality and well-being. In some cases, parasomnias may require medical evaluation and treatment to manage and reduce their impact on sleep and daily functioning. If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing parasomnia, please get in touch at the link below for proper diagnosis and guidance on appropriate management strategies.