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 occurrences can disrupt the quality of one's slumber, as well as impact their overall health and wellbeing. This blog post will investigate the different varieties of parasomnias, including those related to NREM sleep such as confusional arousals and night terrors, REM-related issues like RBD and sleep paralysis, plus atypical types like exploding head syndrome and nocturnal enuresis.

We will also explore the various causes behind adult-onset parasomnia, from genetic factors to stress-induced sleeping disorders or medication side effects. A comprehensive understanding of these triggers may help identify potential risk factors for developing such conditions.

In addition to discussing the underlying causes of these disturbances in sleep patterns, we'll outline methods for diagnosing parasomnia disorders through evaluations of an individual's sleep history or more advanced techniques like polysomnography testing.

Finally, we'll provide insights on how to effectively treat different forms of parasomnia using pharmacological interventions tailored to specific symptoms or conditions. Moreover, psychotherapy options along with behavioral treatments can offer additional support in managing these complex sleep issues. By implementing proper sleep hygiene practices alongside medical guidance when necessary - you might be able to prevent recurrence or even stop ongoing episodes altogether!


Types of Parasomnia

Parasomnias are sleep disorders with abnormal behaviors, movements, or perceptions during sleep, categorized into NREM-related, REM-related, and "other."

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

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Behavior Disorder (RBD) causes physical acting out of vivid dreams due to a lack of muscle atonia during REM sleep, while sleep paralysis is temporary inability to move or speak with hallucinations and fear.

Other types of parasomnia: exploding head syndrome and nocturnal enuresis

Exploding head syndrome involves perception of loud noises before falling asleep or upon awakening, 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 groaning (catathrenia), each requiring proper diagnosis and tailored treatment for optimal management.

Causes of Parasomnia in Adults

Parasomnias can disrupt slumber significantly, and their emergence may be due to a multitude of reasons, such as heredity, tension, pharmaceuticals or recreational drug use.


Research shows that some forms of parasomnia, like sleepwalking and night terrors, can be inherited, so if your family has a history of these conditions, you might be at risk too.


Managing stress through activities like meditation or exercise may help reduce the chances of developing parasomnias such as nightmares and confusional arousals.


Certain medications, such as antidepressants and sedative-hypnotics, may cause an increased risk of developing certain parasomnias; hence it is advisable to consult a doctor if one suspects their medication might be the culprit.

Recreational Drugs

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

Diagnosing Parasomnia Disorders

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

Sleep History Evaluation

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

Polysomnography Testing Process

Polysomnography (PSG) is an overnight test that records various physiological parameters while you sleep, including 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.

Treating Parasomnia: A Comprehensive Guide

Parasomnia can be a frightful experience, yet there are strategies to handle 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 gain better control over your sleeping patterns.

Sleep Hygiene Practices

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

  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Limit alcohol consumption before sleep since 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, check out the CDC's website.

How to Put an End to Parasomnia Episodes

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

Manage Stress for Better Sleep Quality

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

Adjust Medications with Medical Supervision

Advise a healthcare professional before making any adjustments to medication dosages.

Create an Optimal Sleeping Environment

  • Maintain Consistent Sleep Schedules: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body's internal clock.
  • Create a Comfortable Space: Ensure that your bedroom environment is cool, dark, quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions.
  • Avoid Stimulants: Limit caffeine consumption several hours before bedtime.
  • Limited Screen Time Before Bed: Establish a screen-free routine for at least an hour before bed.

Incorporating these prevention strategies into your daily life may help reduce the frequency of parasomnia episodes while improving overall sleep quality. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you continue experiencing disruptive nocturnal events despite implementing these measures.

FAQs in Relation to 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 consumption, certain medications, and environmental disturbances can trigger parasomnia episodes.

Parasomnia is Not a Mental Disorder

Parasomnia is a primary sleeping disorder that involves abnormal movements or behaviors during sleep and may 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 parasomnia, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include medication adjustments, psychotherapy, stress management techniques, and creating an optimal sleeping environment.

Don't let parasomnia disrupt your sleep and daily life - take action and get the help you need!

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