Parasomnia refers to the unnatural or abnormal activities that are observed among some people when they are sleeping, asleep or between the stages of sleep. These abnormal activities usually include movements, behavior, perceptions and dreams.
Sleep walking, night terrors, sleep paralysis are all considered to be parasomnia. Some people are known to have sexsomnia – sleepsex. Sleepsex is sexual acts which are performed by a person who is asleep. The sexual acts are typically masturbation.
Sleep is control by the brain and occurs inform of cycles. Parasomnia can occur at any point in the sleep cycle: at the beginning, middle or end. When it occurs at the beginning, just before sleep is achieved, it is associated with hallucinations and abnormal muscle movements.
At this stage, the body may be paralyzed for a few seconds or minutes. This kind of paralysis that occurs when a person is asleep is called sleep paralysis. When person with this sleep disorder is paralyzed in sleep and at the same time hallucinates, it can be very frightening. Hallucinations may also occur when the person is waking up.
Parasomnia that occurs when a person is in deep sleep is usually vigorous and the person literally performs the scenes that are in the dream. When parasomnia occurs in Rapid Eye Movement (REM), it is referred to as REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Remember that REM is the most peaceful and relaxing part of sleep. This sleep disorder at this stage can therefore cause serious daytime sleepiness and drowsiness. The patient also does not get refreshed after sleep.
Parasomnia is seen in men who are past the age of 50. However, persons of any age can be affected. It can also affects those who have narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease or those taking antidepressant medications. It not only affects the patient but also the person they are sleeping with. The bed partner may exhibit the symptoms of insomnia.
Parasomnia: Risk Factors
It is estimated that about 10% of Americans are affected by this problem. It can occur among persons of any age but children are affected the most. This is because a child’s brain is still not well developed. Consequently, the frequency of this tends to go down with age.
Whether or not to wake up a parasomniac in action is debatable. On one hand, they may perceive the act of being woken up as aggression and respond accordingly. On the other hand, a parasomniac in action may get hurt in the episode. The best approach is to direct them to safety. Violently or aggressively waking up a person who is experiencing this problem should be avoided. They should be held by the elbow and be spoken to gently.
Treatment and Coping Tips
It is important that a person who gets regular attacks of parasomnia be provided with a safe place to sleep. All sharp objects should be removed from the bedroom. In addition, they should not sleep near a window or up-stairs. There are drugs that can be prescribed to reduce the symptoms.
The cause of parasomnias is not known but is said to run in the family. It is important to note that as much as the events in this sleep disorder may be weird, the person does not necessarily have a psychiatric disease. It is rarely linked to a psychological disease.