Parasomnia: Causes and Treatments

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Parasomnia is a term that encompasses a wide range of abnormal behaviors and experiences during sleep. These unusual events can disrupt the quality of a person’s sleep, as well as have an impact on their general health and well-being. This blog post will investigate the different varieties of parasomnias, including those related to NREM sleep such as confused arousals and night terrors, those related to REM sleep such as RBD and sleep paralysis, as well as atypical types such as sleep syndrome. the exploding head and nocturnal enuresis.

We will also explore the various causes underlying adult-onset parasomnia, from genetic factors to stress-induced sleep disorders to medication side effects. A thorough understanding of these triggers can help identify potential risk factors for developing these conditions.

In addition to discussing the underlying causes of these disturbances in sleep patterns, we will outline methods for diagnosing parasomnia disorders using assessments of an individual’s sleep history or more advanced techniques such as polysomnography tests.

Finally, we will provide information on how to effectively treat the various forms of parasomnia through pharmacological interventions tailored to specific symptoms or conditions. Additionally, psychotherapy options along with behavioral treatments may offer additional support in managing these complex sleep problems. By applying proper sleep hygiene practices along with medical guidance when necessary, you could prevent recurrence or even stop ongoing episodes altogether!

Types of parasomnia

Parasomnias are sleep disorders with abnormal behaviors, movements, or perceptions during sleep, which are categorized as NREM-related, REM-related, and “other.”

NREM-related parasomnias: confused awakenings and night terrors

Confusional arousals result in confusion upon waking with limited awareness, while night terrors involve intense fear and shaking during deep NREM sleep.

REM-related parasomnias: RBD and sleep paralysis

Rapid eye movement (REM) disorder causes the physical representation of vivid dreams due to lack of muscle atony during REM sleep, while sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak with hallucinations and fear.

Other types of parasomnia: exploding head syndrome and nocturnal enuresis

Exploding head syndrome involves the perception of loud noises before falling asleep or upon waking, while nocturnal enuresis is involuntary urination during sleep beyond the age of bladder control.

Other forms of parasomnia include nightmares, sleepwalking, sexsomnia, and sleep-related moaning (catathrenia), each of which requires proper diagnosis and tailored treatment for optimal management.

Causes of parasomnia in adults

Parasomnias can significantly disrupt sleep, and their onset can be due to a multitude of reasons, including heredity, stress, medications, or recreational drug use.


Research shows that some forms of parasomnia, such as sleepwalking and night terrors, can run in families, so if your family has a history of these conditions, you could be at risk, too.


Managing stress through activities such as meditation or exercise can help reduce the chances of developing parasomnias such as nightmares and confused awakenings.


Certain medications, such as antidepressants and sedative-hypnotics, can cause an increased risk of developing certain parasomnias; therefore it is advisable to consult a doctor if it is suspected that your medication may be the culprit.

recreational drugs

Drugs like alcohol and marijuana can disrupt normal sleep patterns and increase the likelihood of experiencing abnormal sleep behaviors, so it’s best to avoid them if you want to prevent parasomnias.

Diagnosis of parasomnia disorders

Effective diagnosis of parasomnia disorders requires a thorough evaluation by a physician, including a detailed sleep history and diagnostic tests such as polysomnography.

Sleep history assessment

A crucial step in diagnosis is obtaining a detailed sleep history from the patient, including bedtime routines, frequency and duration of episodes, possible triggers or stressors, and any family history of similar conditions.

Polysomnography Test Process

Polysomnography (PSG) is an overnight test that records various physiological parameters while you sleep, such as brain activity, muscle movements, eye movements, and respiratory function.

To assess a patient’s sleep-wake cycle and daytime alertness levels, additional diagnostic tests such as MSLT or actigraphy may be recommended.

Accurate diagnosis allows for tailored therapeutic approaches to effectively manage parasomnia disorders.

Parasomnia Treatment: A Complete Guide

Parasomnia can be a frightening experience, but there are strategies to manage it productively.

Pharmacological interventions

Benzodiazepines can help reduce the frequency and intensity of parasomnia episodes, but use them with caution.

Psychotherapy and behavioral treatments

Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis can help you better control your sleep patterns.

Sleep Hygiene Practices

Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and make your sleep environment comfortable.

  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Limit alcohol consumption before bed as it can disrupt normal sleep patterns.

Address any underlying factors contributing to parasomnia episodes, such as stress or medication use.

For more information on sleep hygiene practices, see the CDC website.

How to stop parasomnia episodes

Minimize episodes of parasomnia by addressing underlying causes or triggers, such as stress management techniques or modifying medication regimens under the guidance of a physician.

Manage stress to improve sleep quality

Practicing mindfulness meditation, engaging in regular physical activity, and using deep breathing exercises can improve overall sleep quality.

Adjust medication with medical supervision

Consult a healthcare professional before making any adjustments to the dosage of medications.

Create an optimal sleeping environment

  • Keep consistent sleep schedules: Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  • Create a comfortable space: Make sure your bedroom environment is cool, dark, quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions.
  • Avoid stimulants: Limit caffeine intake several hours before bed.
  • Limit screen time before bed: Establish a screen-free routine for at least an hour before bed.

Incorporating these prevention strategies into your daily life can help you reduce the frequency of parasomnia episodes while improving your overall quality of sleep. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you continue to experience disturbing nighttime episodes despite applying these measures.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Parasomnia

4 types of parasomnia

Parasomnia includes NREM-related parasomnias, REM-related parasomnias, exploding head syndrome, and nocturnal enuresis.

What causes parasomnia?

Parasomnia can be caused by genetics, stress, medications, substance abuse, and underlying medical conditions.

Triggers of parasomnia episodes

Irregular sleep schedules, fatigue, stress, alcohol use, certain medications, and environmental disturbances can trigger episodes of parasomnia.

Parasomnia is not a mental disorder

Parasomnia is a primary sleep disorder that involves abnormal movements or behaviors during sleep and can coexist with psychiatric disorders.


Parasomnia is a group of sleep disorders that can affect anyone, with different types such as NREM-related and REM-related, each with unique symptoms and causes.

If you suspect you have parasomnia, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include medication adjustments, psychotherapy, stress management techniques, and creating an optimal sleep environment.

Don’t let parasomnia disturb your sleep and daily life – take action and get the help you need!

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