It is surprising to know that there are quite a few people who are doing all sorts of bizarre things whilst they are sleeping. Most of us will know at least one person who has some kind of sleep disturbance. Common examples of sleep problems include sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep aggression, sleep apnea, sleep paralysis and night terrors.
I’m going to share my personal story of parasomnia to let others know that they are not alone, and hopefully enlighten readers to the condition whilst offering some kind of support for the family (or bed partner) of a person with this disorder.
Parasomnia: What exactly is it?
My symptoms of parasomnia began on and off several years ago but have increased in severity and frequency over the past several months.
These symptoms include the bodily acting out of dreams, waking up in the morning feeling frightened or confused (known as confusional arousal) and actually sleep walking, whilst still unconscious.
When I first visited my family physician, feeling a little ashamed and very tired he explained to me that it is very important to discover exactly what kind of parsomnia symptoms that I am experiencing. Parasomnia is an umbrella term that covers a whole range of sleep disorders.
When does This Happen
I usually experience sleep paralysis when I am just about to go into a deep sleep (dropping off) or just about to wake up. Sleep walking and acting out dreams seems to happen at any time during the night.
How does a Person Know if He or She has Parasomnia?
Treatment of Parasomnia
As I became increasingly worried about my sleep disorder, I immediately sought medical help. Some sleep disorders need to be investigated at a sleep clinic. Fortunately my symptoms resolved quite quickly with a few simple tips on improving my sleeping habits.
- Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Keep stress at bay. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Develop a soothing bedtime schedule ~ do not use any electronic devices in bed i.e. laptop, mobile phone or TV. Go to bed with a good book and a cup of warm milk.
- Try and get an adequate amount of sleep ~ this varies from person to person but between 8 and 10 hours is about right.
In addition, I was also advised to monitor my condition. In the event that my sleep walking and acting out began to put me at risk of hurting myself or other people, then further tests at a sleep clinic would be necessary. In this eventuality, medication and therapy may be necessary to reduce the symptoms.
As mentioned earlier, I was lucky in that a few basic techniques really improved my symptoms. If you are regularly experiencing any sleep disturbances than it is imperative that you seek medical advice. After all, a good night’s sleep is essential for health.
Questions and Answers
At what stage of sleep do the unusual behaviors occur?
I was sent for a sleep study and my specialist says I have rem sleep behavior disorder, what is this?
Rem sleep behavior disorder (RBD) means that the sleep disturbance occurs in the dreaming or rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
RBD simply means that the sufferer acts out vivid dreams whilst asleep. Medications can trigger RBD and also Parkinson disease and other brain problems such as CVA (stroke). Rem sleep behavior disorder is NOT a psychiatric disorder but more a brain disorder.
I have restless leg syndrome. Why is this classed as a sleep disorder as it happens when I am awake?
Restless leg syndrome is actually a neurological disorder that is characterised by a creeping, itching or burning sensations in the legs, calves or feet. Sometimes the legs will twitch involuntarily too.
It is classified with some of the sleep disorders as it can often occur at night disturbing the sleep. This often in turn can lead to sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness.