Abnormal Sleep Behaviour (Parasomnias)

Parasomnias are abnormal movements or behaviours in sleep. Common examples include:

Sleep walking and night terrors

These are relatively common in children and young adults and will normally get better with age. In severe cases, such as those which cause significant sleep disruption or risk of injury, further investigation and treatment may be needed. They are less common in adults, and if present will often require investigations to exclude other medical disorders.

REM Behaviour Disorder

REM behaviour disorder is a very interesting disorder from both a neurological and sleep point of view. People usually have dreams during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. At this time, there is normally a profound paralysis of the body's muscles. In this disorder, for some reason, the paralysis does not occur. Thus patients often act out their dreams, particularly if violent.

Symptoms: It usually manifests as repetitive violent movements during REM or "dreaming" sleep, which can sometimes injure both the patient and their bed partner. Patients are often aware that they have been dreaming during these episodes.

This disorder usually occurs later in life. Some patients may later develop Parkinson's disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment: It is important to exclude other sleep disorders that may appear similar to this condition by having a sleep study. Treatment with certain medications is usually extremely effective.

For more information about Parasomnias download the fact sheets from the Sleep Health Foundation website.