Parasomnias are undesirable behaviors or experiences that occur during entry into sleep, within sleep, or during arousal from sleep. Parasomnias may occur at any point during a person’s sleep cycle. Most consist of one or more of the following behaviors: sleepwalking, sleep terrors, nightmares, eating during sleep, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RSBD), and bedwetting during sleep. A host of medical disorders and medications can cause or worsen parasomnias.
Sleepwalking and sleep terrors occur more often in children. RSBD most frequently occurs in older men but can occur in younger individuals, including women. Sleepwalking sounds funny, but it’s not. The sleepwalker might start off in the kitchen and then move outside to the street. In RSBD, the afflicted individual acts out the content of his/her dreams. For example, if the individual is having a dream in which he is engaged in aggressive or violent behaviors, he/she will perform the associated activities, including associated vocalizations, during sleep.
The initial appearance of RSBD symptoms is often followed years later by the development of degenerative neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease. Thus, many parasomnias can be dangerous to the individual, the bed partner, and anyone else close by, and RBD additionally can warn of the possibility of the later development of neurodegenerative disorders.