Some are exclusive to childhood, so they have to disappear in adulthood. Others can cause serious health consequences. We talk about parasomnias.

It is likely that at some point you have had or are having parasomnias, even if you do not know they have that name. Those nights when you talk in your dreams, have nightmares or wake up with joint pain from bruxism are examples that you have had a type of this concept so common among people, but so little used.

As its translation from the Greek indicates ( for : 'improper' and somnum : 'from sleep'), these phenomena are abnormal. They are events that we cannot control, since they are not voluntary. They are not considered a pathology as such. However, they can be very annoying, since they decrease the quality of sleep and, in a continuous way, can affect our daytime performance.

Types of parasomnias

Parasomnia is a type of behavior disorder that occurs while we sleep. It is characterized by causing brief or partial awakenings, without significant interruption of sleep.

Parasomnias are more likely to occur in transitions from one sleep phase to another . In fact, among these abnormal sleep interruptions we find a great variety of types that are classified precisely according to the phase of sleep in which they mainly appear.

Awakening disorders

These disorders have two traits in common. On the one hand, they usually occur in slow wave sleep (NON-REM). On the other, they cause the person to wake up partially or to carry out waking behaviors, of which they are not fully aware. These disorders are confusional awakening, night terrors, or sleepwalking .

The first of these is also often known as confusion or drunkenness of awakening and is more common in children under five years of age. The night terrors are frequent between 4 and 12 years and are characterized by a rude awakening in the first third of the night, accompanied by screaming, crying, tachycardia , among other signs.

Lastly, sleepwalking carries a higher level of behavioral complexity. The person performs complex behaviors during sleep, progressing towards walking, being asleep at all times. The severity of this parasomnia ranges from taking only a few steps to trying to escape from the house or performing abnormal acts. Considering possible injuries or falls, the consequences can be serious .

Wake-sleep transition disorders

This type of parasomnias usually occurs in healthy people and is considered as variants of normality. Among them, we find night cramps, somniloquies or rhythmic periodic movement.

Cramps in the muscles of the foot or leg are very prevalent in the population . Its appearance is rare in children, while in adults or the elderly it is 15%. They usually disappear without causing major discomfort.

Somniloquies are verbalizations that occur while we sleep . They have a variable duration, from seconds to minutes and usually appear in times of stress . They are more frequent in the REM phase and in children. If they remain in adulthood, it is advisable to see a doctor for exploration.

Rhythmic periodic movement is also known as nocturnal boastful capitis , infant self-stimulating behavior, or infant erotic stimulation behavior disorder. They are a series of stereotyped and repetitive movements in which different muscle groups of the head and neck or legs participate . They usually start before sleep and continue through the early stages of light sleep.

REM phase disorders

Although these types of parasomnias usually appear in the REM phase, they are not exclusive to it. REM sleep behavior disorder produces increased movement and muscle tone, accompanied by vocalizations. It usually manifests itself in kicking, moving in bed, hitting or kicking. In addition, it implies a certain degree of aggressiveness, it can sometimes lead to injuries in those who suffer from it and in those who accompany them in bed.

Sleep paralysis is characterized by periods of time in which the person is unable to move voluntarily . She is as if paralyzed, except for the respiratory and eye muscles and the sensation. It can occur in isolation or in conjunction with episodes of narcolepsy; and it is associated with psychiatric illnesses or particular beliefs . Nightmares, sleep-related erectile dysfunction, REM painful erections, and REM-related sinus asystole are also part of these types of disorders.

Other parasomnias

The bruxism , enuresis, nocturnal sudden death, sleep apnea of the infant or hyperhidrosis differentially do not occur at any stage. For this reason, they are grouped within this mixed bag, since they take place interchangeably in several of the sleep phases.

Diagnosis of parasomnias

Sometimes, to distinguish it from other entities, such as epileptic seizures, a differential diagnosis is necessary. The main tool used by doctors is the medical history, using a family member as a witness who can provide information on these parasomnias .

If none of this clarifies, then we will proceed to try to make a record of the parasomnia episode. This is usually done with the polysomnographic study and video-EEG . If you suffer from parasomnias more intensely or frequently than usual, it is recommended that you contact a specialist. In this way, he can help you reduce their appearance or discover what causes them.

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