Parasomnias – Types Of Sleep Disorders
Parasomnias or sleep disorders are disruptive disorders that can occur during arousals from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or partial arousals from Non-REM sleep. Parasomnias often include somnambulism or sleepwalking, nightmares, night terrors, confusional arousals and many others.
Types of Parasomnias
Nightmares are vivid nocturnal events that cause feelings of fear and terror, with or without feeling anxiety. In most cases, a person having a nightmare will be abruptly awakened from REM sleep and is able to give a detailed account of what he dreamt about. Also, the person having a nightmare has difficulty returning to sleep.
Nightmares are usually caused by a number of factors. This can include one or a combination of an illness, anxious feelings, the loss of a loved one, or a negative reaction to medication. Consult with a doctor or sleep specialist if nightmares occur more often than once a week or if it is preventing you from getting a good, restful sleep for a prolonged periods of time.
Sleep Terrors or Night Terrors
A person who was experiencing a sleep terror or night terror often awakes in a terrified state. Although the person may appear awake, he is actually in a confused state and might be unable to communicate. They will not respond to voices and will be difficult to fully awaken.
Night terrors may last about 10-15 minutes, after which the person usually lies down again and appears to have fallen back to sleep. People who have had sleep terrors the night before usually do not remember the events the following morning. Night terrors might appear similar to nightmares, but the former usually occur during deep sleep.
Night terrors are also fairly common in children between the ages of three to five. Children who are experiencing sleep terrors are also likely to talk in their sleep or sleepwalk.
Somnambulism or sleepwalking occurs when a person appears to be awake and moving around but is actually in deep sleep. These sleepwalkers will even have no memory of their actions when they awake.
Sleepwalking usually occurs during deep non-REM sleep (stages 3 and 4 sleep) early at night and it can also occur during REM sleep in the early morning. While this sleep disorder occurs most common in children aged eight to twelve, it can also occur in younger children, adults and even the elderly. Sleepwalking is said to run in families.
Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it is not dangerous to wake sleepwalker. He may be disoriented or appear confused for a short time upon awakening but he will be okay.
Confusional arousal happens when a person is awakened from a deep sleep during the early hours of the night. This sleeping disorder is also known as excessive sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness, because it involves an exaggerated slowness upon awakening.
People who are experiencing confusional arousals tend to react slowly and may even have difficulty understanding questions when they are asked. Also people with confusional arousal have problems with their short-term memory because they have no memory of the events that occurred the following day.
Rhythmic Movement Disorders
Rhythmic movement disorder occurs most often in children who are one year old or younger. A child may lie flat one moment then lift his head or upper body, and just as suddenly forcefully hit his head on the pillow.
Rhythmic movement disorder is also called “head banging,” but can involve body movements such as rocking on hands and knees. This disorder often occurs just before the child falls asleep.
Sleep talking is a disorder wherein there is a transition between sleep-awake stages. Although usually harmless, sleep talking can be disturbing to bed partners or family members who witness it.
Sleep talking can be brief and may involve only simple sounds. In rare cases, it can be a long speech from the sleeper. A person who talks during his sleep usually has no recollection of what he said. Sleep talking is often caused by external factors such as high fever, deep emotional stress or some other sleep disorder.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Nocturnal leg cramps are involuntary contractions of the calf muscles during the night or periods of rest. The sudden cramping sensation may last from a few seconds to as long as 10 minutes, but the pain may linger for a longer period of time.
Nocturnal leg camps are usually experienced by middle-aged or older people, but almost anyone can have them because the cause is still not known.
Some cases of leg cramps may have a connection to dehydration, prolonged sitting or standing, over-exertion of the leg muscles, or structural disorders such as flat feet.
People experiencing sleep paralysis may not able to move their body or limbs either when they about to fall asleep or immediately upon waking up. The cause of this sleep disorder is not known.
Although this disorder is not harmful per se, people experiencing it are often fearful that it might be a symptom of a more serious skeletal or muscle problem. An episode of sleep paralysis is usually ended by a sound or even a touch. Shortly after, the person having sleep paralysis is able to move again. Because the cause is unknown, sleep paralysis may occur only once in a lifetime or can be a recurrent phenomenon.
Impaired Sleep-Related Penile Erections
Impaired sleep-related penile erections occur among men who are unable to sustain a penile erection during sleep that would be rigid enough to engage in actual sexual intercourse. This impaired sleep-related erection may actually indicate erectile dysfunction.
Sleep-Related Painful Erections
Men normally have erections during the REM sleep stage. However, in a few cases erections become extremely painful that it causes a man to wake up. A possible treatment could be an antidepressant to suppress REM sleep.
REM Sleep Cardiac Arrhythmias
A cardiac arrhythmia is a deviation from the normal rate of the heart’s contractions. People who have been diagnosed with coronary diseases and whose blood oxygen was found to be lowered by sleep-disordered breathing may suffer from arrhythmias, which usually take place during REM sleep.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD)
People found to have REM sleep behavior disorder often act out violent or dramatic dreams during REM sleep. Usually REM sleep involves a state of sleep paralysis (atonia), but people having RBD are able to move their body or limbs while dreaming.
In most cases, RBD occurs in men aged 50 and older, but this disorder has been found to also occur in women and even in younger people.
The disorder sleep bruxism usually involves the unconscious and involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep. This sleep disorder may lead to more serious problems involving muscles of the jaw and the early wearing out of the teeth.
In some cases, sleep bruxism can be prevented with the use of a mouth guard supplied by a dentist to prevent the teeth from grinding against each other.
Sleep Enuresis or Bedwetting
With sleep enuresis, the person is unable to maintain urinary control when asleep. It can be caused by medical conditions such as sleep apnea, diabetes or urinary tract infection. In rare cases, psychiatric disorders can also cause enuresis.
Nocturnal Paroxysmal Dystonia (NPD)
Nocturnal Paroxysmal Dystonia is sometimes marked by epilepsy-like seizures during non-REM sleep. Episodes of NPD can recur several times per night.