The term “Parasomnia” refers to a large range of sleep disorders that are typically not very frequent. Rarely will these occur to such a degree that medical help is needed. Most of these disorders are rare after childhood, so adults should seek medical advice. Links for details and examples of select parasomnias: Bruxism, Restless Leg Syndrome, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, Nocturnal Seizures, Insomnia, and Fibromyalgia and Sleep.
It is my goal to provide you with enough information that you know what questions to ask your Sleep Disorders Specialist. Your sleep Doctor will be better able to answer questions about your particular problem.
Sleep Starts: Motor sleep starts are what most people have experienced when just about to fall asleep. It’s the sudden violent jerk that many describe as falling off a cliff. There are two other types of sleep starts. A visual sleep start is having a sensation of a blinding light when you are falling asleep. An auditory sleep start is a sensation of a loud snapping sound that seems to originate in your head.
Bruxism (Teethgrinding): Typically it is your dentist that will let you know you have this problem as the grinding will slowly wear down your teeth. Read more on Bruxism.
Sleep Talking (Somniloquy): Hmmm….how to describe sleep talking…..hmmm. It’s when you talk in your sleep. Unfortunately this is totally normal and no doctor is going to do anything about it because it has no medical significance. It is very fun to listen to in the sleep center though. If you have any secrets you don’t want to share, wearing a gag at night would be beneficial.
Rhythmic Movement Disorder: This occurs almost exclusively in young children. This involves head movements like headbanging and rolling. It also involves body rocking and can be accompanied by moaning.
Nocturnal Seizures: These only occur during sleep and can be detected with an all night sleep study with a seizure montage (doubles electrodes on the patients head for a near full EEG during sleep) These can mimic many other parasomnias with a person exhibiting yelling, crying, movement and talking. Nocturnal Seizures can be treated with medication. Read More about Seizures and see pictures.
Sleep Paralysis: This typically occurs when waking up from a dream (REM sleep). A person with sleep paralysis will experience an inability to move right after waking. This can be caused by being overly sleep-deprived or someone with narcolepsy. This isn’t dangerous, but it is extremely frightening.
Hypnagogic Hallucinations: This is dreaming while awake and occurs right before falling asleep. These “dreams” are often very scary in content, mostly because it’s set in reality. By this I mean that if you’re in bed and falling asleep, the hallucination involves you being in bed. It’s part reality and part…ta da…hallucination. These are often seen in people who have narcolepsy. These are often reported as being paranormal activities.
Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder: (a.k.a.) REM behavior disorder. Patients with this will act out their dreams while asleep. These dreams are normally violent so the patient will punch and swing wildly. I have witnessed patients doing things such as fishing in their sleep though. This is when the normal paralysis that should occur during REM sleep doesn’t. This is most often seen in older men where the paralysis is non-existent or only partial. Unfortunately, a very high percentage of patients with REM behavior disorder develop Parkinsons Disease and Dementia. See below for an example of this.