Sleep Problems Related to Parasomnias and Disruptive Sleep Disturbances
Some of the most perplexing types of sleep problems fall under the category of parasomnias. These sleep events are characterized and defined as disruptive sleep-related disorders that occur during arousal from dream sleep (REM) or partial arousal from other stages of non-REM sleep. Sleep problems related to parasomnias can range from mild sleep disruptions to violent outbursts and vary from person to person. Many of these sleep problems are very prevalent in children, with most people having experienced one or several at a young age, but some may continue to plague sufferers into adulthood. Some of the most common parasomnias include:
Confusional arousal - Very common in children but usually becomes less frequent with age. This event is often characterized by sudden arousal from deep sleep, usually accompanied by inconsolable crying, screaming, and kicking upon waking.
Somnambulism (Sleep walking) - Prepubescent children are most prone to sleep walking episodes, although it can carry on into adulthood and is believed to be hereditary. It is characterized by movements and walking around in which the sufferer appears to be awake when they are actually still asleep. Contrary to popular belief, it is not dangerous to wake someone who is sleepwalking, although they may be confused and disoriented upon arousal.
Somniloquy (Sleep-talking) - One of the most common types of sleep problems related to parasomnias, this often occurs when transitioning between stages of NREM sleep when the person becomes partially aroused. It is very common in children, however many adults still report some level of sleep talking.
Sleep terrors/Night terrors - Common in young children, these sleep problems are the most disruptive types of parasomnias and differ from nightmares. They often involve screaming, panic, and inconsolable fits of anger and violence that can sometimes result in bodily harm or property damage from hitting and erratic movements. Oftentimes complete arousal is difficult and can take some time, and efforts to physically console or wake the person can intensify the episode, with sufferers often reporting no memory of the event once they have been aroused.
Bruxism (teeth grinding) - Characterized by unconscious and involuntary grinding of the teeth while sleeping. It is very common in both children and adults, and can cause sleep disturbances, tooth damage, and jaw pain.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) - This common affliction is characterized by sudden, jerking movements of the arms and legs. While often time these "twitches" are minor, they can sometimes involve kicking or hitting which may cause injury to the sleeping person or their bed partner.
Sleep Paralysis - Categorized as a "motor breakthrough" that occurs during sudden arousal from or when first entering REM sleep, it is a result of the muscular atonia which is often associated with this stage of sleep. On occasion during sleep transitions, the mind may suddenly "wake up" faster than the body, leaving the person in a temporary state of paralysis. While it is harmless, this experience can be extremely frightening for those who experience it since they are unable to move and may have auditory hallucinations for a short period of time.
If you suspect you or your child suffer from sleep problems due to parasomnias, contact your doctor to discuss your treatment options.