Parasomnias are abnormal movements or behaviours in sleep. Different types include:
Sleepwalking and night terrors
These are relatively common in children and young adults and will normally get better with age. In severe cases—such as those which cause significant sleep disruption or risk of injury—further investigation and treatment may be needed. Sleepwalking and night terrors are less common in adults and if present, will often require investigations to exclude other medical disorders.
REM Behaviour Disorder
REM behaviour disorder is a fascinating disorder from both a neurological and sleep point of view. People usually have dreams during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There is normally a profound paralysis of the body's muscles during REM sleep; however, people with parasomnias do not experience paralysis in this stage of sleep. Thus patients often act out their dreams, particularly if violent.
Parasomnias usually manifest as repetitive violent movements during REM or 'dreaming sleep,' which can sometimes result in injury to both the patient and their bed partner. Patients are often aware that they have been dreaming during these episodes.
Parasomnias usually occur later in life. Some patients may later develop Parkinson's disease.
Diagnosis and treatment
It is important to exclude other sleep disorders that may appear similar to this condition by having a sleep study. Treatment with certain medications is usually extremely effective.