Understanding Parasomnias: Different Types of Sleep Disorders

Understanding Parasomnias

and Health

Having a good night’s sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Unfortunately, people with sleep disorders don’t get the quality and quantity of sleep that they need. Among these sleep disorders is the group known as parasomnias which affects an individual’s behaviour during sleep. Understanding parasomnias and their different types can help identify and treat sleep disorders.

What is Parasomnia?

Parasomnia is a condition that causes abnormal and sometimes dangerous behaviours such as talking, walking, and/or hallucinations while sleeping. These behaviours occur during sleep stages such as rapid eye movement (REM) and can include nightmares, bedwetting or sleepwalking. People who suffer from parasomnias are normally unaware of their behaviours during sleep and may feel drowsy and disoriented upon waking.

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Types of Parasomnia

There are several types of parasomnias, each of which can be described by their common symptoms and consequences. These include:

  • Nightmares: Nightmares are usually caused by stress, anxiety or traumatic experiences. They cause very vivid and frightening dreams that can cause significant anxiety or be so intense they can awaken the person.
  • Sleepwalking: Sleepwalking is a frequent behaviour, occurring during deep sleep. It often involves walking around and performing actives as if awake, but without being fully conscious of the activities.
  • Sleep Terror: Sleep terror is an extreme form of nightmares, where the person experiences intense fear and screams uncontrollably. This is usually accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, sweating, confusion and feelings of terror.
  • Sleep Paralysis: Sleep paralysis is an inability to move or talk during sleep. It usually occurs when the brain wakes up before the body and the person experiences a sense of being trapped in their body.
  • REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder: REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder is a rare and potentially dangerous parasomnia which can cause violent outbursts during sleep, resulting in potential injury to oneself or their sleeping partner.

Identifying and Treating Parasomnia

The most effective way to identify parasomnia is to keep a detailed record of sleep disturbances and behaviours. If the symptoms are severe enough, a doctor may prescribe medication to help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Treatment also involves making lifestyle changes such as reducing stress levels, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. Finally, cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to help manage the fear and anxiety associated with parasomnias.

Parasomnias can have a significant impact on one’s health and wellbeing, but understanding the different types of parasomnia and available treatments can help to manage and reduce their effects. By working with your doctor and following a treatment plan, it is possible to get a good night’s sleep and live a more fulfilling life.

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