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Parasomnia: 5 Interesting Facts You Didnt Know

Parasomnias are abnormal behaviors that occur while you sleep, such as sleepwalking, sleep talking, sleep eating, hallucinations, or recurrent nightmares. Parasomnias affect about 10% of Americans.

Although you may not think of parasomnias as a health concern, they can cause potentially serious problems. In some cases, parasomnias can lead people to engage in destructive behaviors during the night without awareness, such as overeating, driving, leaving their homes, and even engaging in violent behavior.

If you’re unfamiliar with parasomnia, Dr. Gandis G. Maeika at Sound Sleep Health would like to share some important information about this poorly understood medical condition. Here are five facts you probably don’t know about some of the odd behaviors that can occur while you sleep.

1. Parasomnias can occur any time of night

They may happen while you’re falling asleep or in the middle of the night. Those that occur mainly during periods of REM sleep may result in dream-enacting behaviors.

Parasomnia episodes may last just a few seconds or as long as 30 minutes. Generally, they continue for about 10 minutes.

2. Loved ones should not try to awaken parasomniacs.

If you try to wake up someone while they’re sleepwalking, experiencing a night terror, or in the midst of another parasomnia, the person may respond in an angry, aggressive, or even violent way. Rather than trying to wake them, speak to them in a soft voice and gently guide them back to bed.

3. Parasomnias run in families.

Certain types of parasomnias appear to have a genetic link. For example, sleepwalking and sleep talking tend to run in families.

But genetics isn’t the only factor at play. Parasomnias may occur as the result of drinking alcohol, using sedatives or sleeping pills, having a mental health condition, or having a neurocognitive disorder or a medical condition such as seizures.

4. People do surprising things during parasomnia episodes.

Even though you’re asleep, you may open your eyes, get up and walk around, dress or undress, drive, have sex, or even move furniture while you’re asleep. People who experience sleep-related eating disorders may prepare and eat an entire meal without waking up.

After experiencing a parasomnia episode, you may go back to your bed, or you may resume sleeping in another place. Typically, people who have experienced a parasomnia episode don’t recall it the next morning.

If you leave your bedroom or your house while sleeping, you can install alarms on your doors to alert your loved ones.

5. Parasomnias respond to treatment.

Sometimes, parasomnias go away on their own. If they dont, or if your symptoms worsen or become more frequent, you should make an appointment with Dr. Maeika.

During your appointment, Dr. Maeika also performs an examination to look for underlying medical conditions, brain disorders, other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, or medications that may be causing your parasomnia.

If you require sleep testing, we can provide you with a portable sleep-monitoring device that allows you to do in-home testing in the comfort of your own bed.

Treatment for parasomnias varies based on the type, severity, and frequency of the problem. In most cases, treatment starts with changes in behavior during the day and before bed. For example, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, reducing stress, treating depression, and abstaining from alcohol or caffeine may reduce symptoms. Drugs may help when lifestyle changes don’t provide enough relief.

Whether you’re experiencing parasomnias or any other sleep disorder, the sleep experts at Sound Sleep Health can make it easier for you to get the rest you need. For diagnosis and treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders, book a consultation by phone or online at one of our two locations in Kirkland and Seattle, Washington.

Exclusively treating patients with sleep issues, our practice is led by Dr. Maeika, a renowned board-certified sleep medicine specialist who trained at Harvard and Duke universities and is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Maeika is also an active member of the National Sleep Foundation.

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