11 Symptoms of Parasomnias

While zoologists can’t be completely certain, they believe most creatures in the animal kingdom require sleep of some sort. Sleep is the body’s rest and restoration system. During this period, conscious thought and action is essentially suspended, and it is believed the body undergoes an overhaul during this time. Your body temperature and blood pressure drop, your muscles relax, your breathing becomes slower, and tissue repair and growth occurs. Humans spend approximately one-third of their lifetime sleeping, and while you may not be conscious during this period, your brain is still quite active, working hard to download and process the day’s events.

With sleep comprising such a large part of life, it shouldn’t be surprising that problems occasionally arise. Most people have suffered from insomnia— difficulty falling or staying asleep— at least once in their lifetime, but this is usually just an occasional problem. Other sleep problems include a collection of sleep disorders called parasomnias. Any of the abnormal things that can happen to a person during sleep, apart from sleep apnea, is called a parasomnia. These sleep interruptions can occur during any stage of sleep and can be quite disconcerting. Here’s a closer look at different parasomnia disorders.

1. Sleep Terrors

Sleep terrors, sometimes referred to as night terrors, can be extremely intense. A sleep terror is different from a nightmare in that the sufferer doesn’t awaken from the event. A sleep terror also occurs in a different stage of sleep rather than the REM stage, when dreams usually occur.

Sleep terrors are most common in children. This is believed to be due to their immature, developing brain. The sleeping child will scream while flailing their arms and legs, and it is usually obvious they are terrified by something. The experience can be quite scary for their parents, too. Sometimes, it will appear as though the person is awake. They may be sitting up or even open their eyes, but they are actually still asleep. Trying to awaken someone in the middle of a night terror may not work, and if they do awaken, they will typically be very confused and not easily consoled. They will have no memory of the event.

While rare, sleep terrors are not unheard of in adults. Researchers believe the cause in an adult is more likely to be psychological rather than physiological, however. They are usually precipitated by some kind of trauma. Sleep terrors in adults can be dangerous for both themselves and others as their violent flailing can cause more damage. Therefore, it is extremely important they be seen by a professional.