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A woman who has nighttime sleep-related eating disorder

Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. These disturbances are generally divided into two categories: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) parasomnias and non-REM parasomnias, each associated with different sleep stages and presenting distinct symptoms and characteristics.


Non-REM parasomnias, typically occurring in the earlier stages of the sleep cycle, include disorders like sleepwalking, night terrors, and confusional arousals. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, involves getting up and walking around while in a state of sleep. Night terrors are intense, often terrifying experiences that may cause a person to wake up screaming or in a panic, with little to no memory of the event. Confusional arousals involve confused waking, often with inappropriate behavior, and a lack of memory of the episode. These episodes are more common in children and usually decrease with age.


REM parasomnias, on the other hand, occur during the REM stage of sleep and include disorders like REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and nightmare disorder. RBD is characterized by acting out vivid, often unpleasant dreams with vocal sounds and sudden, often violent arm and leg movements during REM sleep. Nightmare disorder involves frequent, detailed nightmares that cause distress and disruption to sleep.


The causes of parasomnias can be varied, including genetic factors, stress, sleep deprivation, and certain medications. In some cases, parasomnias can be triggered by other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea. They can also be exacerbated by alcohol consumption and certain mental health conditions.


Diagnosing parasomnias typically involves a thorough medical history, a detailed description of the episodes, and sometimes a sleep study to observe behaviors and diagnose underlying sleep disorders. In many cases, keeping a sleep diary can be helpful in tracking occurrences and identifying potential triggers.


Treatment for parasomnias depends on the type and severity of the disorder. For many, improving sleep hygiene can reduce or eliminate episodes. This includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule, ensuring a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding alcohol and certain medications before bed. In more severe cases, particularly when the behavior poses a risk of injury, medication may be prescribed. Psychological interventions, such as relaxation techniques, counseling, and sometimes cognitive-behavioral therapy, can also be effective.


At Sonoran Sleep Center, we understand the complexities of parasomnias and the impact they can have on quality of life. Our team of specialists is committed to providing comprehensive care for those experiencing these sleep disturbances. We use a personalized approach to diagnosis and treatment, working closely with each patient to develop a plan that addresses their unique needs. Our goal is to minimize the frequency and severity of parasomnias, helping patients achieve peaceful, restful sleep and improved overall well-being.

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