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Sleep Disorders


Quite a few people have occasional automatic behaviors during sleep, such as sleep talking. These behaviors are generally benign, aside from possibly bothering or annoying a bed partner. However, in some cases, parasomnia can lead people to engage in destructive or potentially dangerous behaviors during the night without even knowing, such as overeating, driving, leaving their homes, and even more violent behaviors, such as lashing out and hitting. Our sleep disorders specialists have deep skill and experience in managing all forms of parasomnia. 

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What is parasomnia?

Parasomnia involves abnormal behaviors that people unknowingly engage in during sleep.

Parasomnia is sometimes troublesome and can include:

  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleep walking
  • Eating while asleep
  • Night terrors
  • Acting out dreams
  • Recurrent nightmares causing awakening with confusion or panic

In some cases of parasomnia, violent, and unusual behaviors can manifest during sleep, such as striking out, leaving the house, or even driving.

Parasomnia is best treated by an experienced sleep specialist and will likely require sleep testing.

Researchers are delving into the causes of parasomnia, but there’s still a lot to be learned. Parasomnia appears to result from the brain being incompletely asleep – some areas are asleep, while others are awake, leading to unexpected and unpredictable behaviors. This mixed state of sleep and wakefulness can arise during transitions between deep and shallower sleep or between dream sleep and waking.

What causes parasomnia?

Several factors can increase the risk of parasomnia, including sleep deprivation, excessive use of alcohol or caffeine, stress and depression, specific brain disorders, medications, and genetics.

Parasomnia is more common in children than adults, though fortunately most children grow out of their episodes, leaving behind such behaviors as bedwetting.

How is parasomnia diagnosed?

Parasomnia is diagnosed with a consultation and various sleep testing methods. In many cases, the Sound Sleep Health team can provide in-home testing to assess parasomnias. Occasionally, testing in our well-equipped Kirkland-based Sleep Center may be necessary. 

How is parasomnia treated?

While some parasomnias might resolve by themselves, if the symptoms worsen, become more frequent, and are ongoing for some time, you should visit a sleep specialist.

Treatment for parasomnias involves a variety of factors depending on the type, frequency, and severity of the parasomnias. Behavior modifications and lifestyle changes are common first steps.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is crucial to your treatment. Your sleep specialist also checks for any underlying medical conditions.

Your specialist might also recommend that you abstain from alcohol or caffeine for some time, to observe if your symptoms subside.

In some cases, you may be offered a prescription medication to reduce the frequency or severity of the episodes.

Whatever the parasomnia, the Sound Sleep Health team can treat it. Call or schedule your consultation online.