Documenting & Researching Night Terrors

Parasomnia: Part I

par·a·som·ni·a (pār’ə-sŏm’nē-ə)
n. Any of several disorders that frequently interfere with sleep, occurring especially among children and including sleepwalking, night terrors, and bed-wetting.

[Probably para-1 + (in)somnia.]

Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal and unnatural movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or arousal from sleep. Most parasomnias are dissociated sleep states which are partial arousals during the transitions between wakefulness and NREM sleep, or wakefulness and REM sleep.

What are the symptoms of insomnia and parasomnia? Insomnia is poor sleep, whereas parasomnia is the presence of abnormal events in sleep. When insomnia or parasomnia persists most nights a week for weeks, it can cause increased tension, decreased energy, and personality and mood changes. Movement disorders such as restless legs at bedtime can cause difficulty falling asleep. In this condition, the legs feel restless when going to bed, and moving them about helps. This is usually accompanied by periodic limb movements (PLMs) or jerks of the arms or legs which cause repeated arousals. Sleep apnea can cause non-refre…

* Primary parasomnias arise without an underlying physical cause and may be classified by the stage of sleep in which they occur, as REM, Non-REM (NREM) or miscellaneous (no specific stage affected). They are also classified diagnostically on the basis of their characteristic presentation.
* Secondary parasomnias are disorders caused by accompanying physical/psychiatric disturbance leading to sleep-related symptoms, e.g. seizures, cardiac dysrhythmia or dysfunction, respiratory dysfunction and gastro-oesophageal reflux.
* Dyssomnias such as insomnia, in contrast, are disorders of the initiation, timing, quality, maintenance or phasing of sleep and are not usually associated with aberrant behaviour or experiences.

* Night terrors and sleepwalking are sometimes called arousal parasomnias.
* Sleep disorders are being reported more often as they become more recognised and deemed as suitable conditions for treatment by the medical profession.2
* A Turkish survey of pre-adolescent school-aged children found a 14.4% prevalence of parasomnias. About 1 in 6 children had at least one parasomnia. Bruxism, nocturnal enuresis (considered by some to be a parasomnia) and night terrors were the most common types.


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