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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Sleep Disorders Center


What Are Parasomnias?

Parasomnias are disruptive sleep disorders that include nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, confusional arousals, rhythmic movement disorders, restless legs syndrome, nocturnal leg cramps, sleep talking, sleep eating, sleep sex, bruxism and many others.

Non-REM parasomnias are caused by a physiological activation in which the patient's brain exits from SWS (slow wave sleep, often referred to as deep sleep), and is caught between a sleeping and waking state. These disorders involve activation of the autonomic nervous system, motor system, or cognitive processes during sleep or sleep/wake transitions.

What Causes Parasomnias?

Parasomnias can be triggered in certain individuals by alcohol, sleep deprivation, physical activity, emotional stress, depression, medication or illness. Some parasomnias are common during childhood but decrease in frequency with age, such as sleepwalking, night terrors, and confusional arousal.