Archive for the ‘parasomnia’ category

REM Behavior Disorder, a Parasomnia

September 28, 2009

What are Parasomnias?

In sleep medicine we define parasomnias as ‘undesirable events that accompany sleep.’ What makes these disorders so interesting is that they can involve more complex and apparently purposeful behaviors than other disorders of sleep. There are parasomnias that occur in REM sleep, and some in nonREM. Last post about Sleepwalking was one example, here’s another.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

During REM sleep your muscles are usually inhibited so that you don’t move during dreams. In this disorder, however, muscle tone is maintained, so the person ends up acting out their dreams. For an unknown reason the dreams that are acted out are usually unpleasant, action-filled and violent. The eyes usually remain closed, and people have been known to sit up, leap from bed, shout, swear, grab, flail their arms, punch, kick, and talk. As you can imagine, sleep-related injury is common for both the patient and their bedpartner. This disorder is more common among men over aged 50, and among those with a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease. If you suspect REM Sleep Behavior Disorder then consult with a sleep clinic.

These are just two of the many types of parasomnias that people can experience. Feel free to email me with questions about other abnormal sleep behaviors if you wish.

Sleepwalking in Seattle

September 26, 2009


As an 11 year old child, I had a champion sleep walking event – let me tell you about it. Growing up in the Seattle suburbs, we lived in a one story rambler. We were friends with the neighbors, who were our age, and also lived in a rambler. One night, after having the flu, I walked down the long hall, out our front door, around the side of the house, up a 2’ rockery, and into the neighbors’ walk. From there I pulled the string to open the wooden gate, up the 6 stairs to their backdoor, in and through their house to the parents room. There I stood until they woke up, I woke after being walked to their kitchen, and my parents woke when the neighbors pounded on the door delivering me home.

Sleepwalking is a type of parasomnia. Sleepwalking typically does occur in children, and resolves as they go through puberty. Sleepwalking tends to run in families. As you can see from the story above, safety is a primary concern. If your child sleepwalks, you need to make sure that doors and windows are locked, stairs are safely blocked, and other hazards are contained. You can hang a bell over the door, so it will alert you when the child gets up. When someone is sleepwalking it is best to simply guide them back to bed gently.