Parasomnias are disruptive behaviors people experience when falling asleep, during sleep, or while they wake up. From talking or walking in your sleep to sleep eating disorders and sleep paralysis, the severity, frequency, and characteristics will vary.

It was previously believed that parasomnias were a sign of mental or behavioral disorders. However, more recent research has argued that these behaviors occur when the brain transitions between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep cycles.

If you want to learn more about parasomnias, you’ve come to the right place. This article will discuss important things you need to know about parasomnias.

Types of Parasomnias

There are two main sleep stages, rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement. Parasomnias are grouped by what sleep stage they take place in.

Non-REM Sleep Parasomnias

The first three stages of sleep are non-rapid eye movement, which takes place from when you fall asleep through the first half of the night. Disorders that occur during NREM sleep are also referred to as arousal disorders.

Parasomnias that occur in NREM sleep involve verbal and physical activity. During these activities, you are unaware that these events are happening, are unresponsive when others attempt to interact with you, and you normally don’t remember what happened the next day.

They typically occur in people aged five to twenty-five with a family history of similar parasomnias. Here are some parasomnias that happen during NREM sleep.

  • Sleep terrors cause you to suddenly wake up in a terrified state, and you may cry or scream. They can last between thirty seconds and a few minutes. You may also experience a racing heart, fast breathing, sweating, and dilated pupils.
  • Sleepwalking can be dangerous and lead to injury. Sleepwalkers get up and move around with open eyes but are still asleep. Many people perform activities such as playing a musical instrument, driving, or moving furniture.
  • Confusional arousals are common in children, and the frequency decreases as you age. This disorder causes you to appear to be slightly awake, but you are disoriented and confused. During this time, you will stay in bed, will have your eyes open, may sit up, and you may cry. Your speech will be slow, and you will have trouble understanding questions that are asked.
  • Sleep-eating can also be dangerous. When sleep-eating, you will eat and drink while you’re partially asleep. The danger comes because you may consume foods that aren’t edible or that are toxic such as uncooked meat, you may eat unhealthy foods, overeat, or get injured when trying to prepare foods.

REM Sleep Parasomnias

REM sleep occurs after NREM sleep. During REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly under your eyelids, and your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing increase. Vivid dreams occur during REM sleep. You cycle between NREM and REM sleep cycles about every hour and a half.

When REM sleep parasomnias occur, you will likely be able to recall all or part of your dream if you wake up during the event. Here are some parasomnias that happen during REM sleep.

  • Nightmare disorder causes vivid dreams that make you fearful or feel terror or anxiety. You may feel as if your survival and security are in jeopardy. If you wake up during your nightmare, you can describe your dream in detail, and you may have difficulty falling back to sleep.
  • Sleep paralysis can happen as you fall asleep or wake up. During this time, you can’t move your body while you sleep. It’s believed that an extension of REM sleep causes this disorder. If you’re spoken to or touched, sleep paralysis can be stopped.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder causes you to physically react to a violent dream. You may talk, yell, punch, grab or kick during an episode. This disorder is common among older adults.

Other Parasomnias

Some less common parasomnias include:

  • Sleep texting — Sending texts while you sleep. 
  • Sexsomnia — Performing sexual acts while asleep.
  • Exploding head syndrome — As you are about to fall asleep, you imagine that you hear a loud crash or noise in your head.
  • Sleep-related hallucinations — Hallucinations you can feel, see and hear that occur when you fall asleep or are waking up.
  • Sleep-related scratching — Scratching while you are asleep. You may wake up with cuts, scratches, or bleeding. 

Causes of Parasomnias

There are many causes of parasomnias. Some triggers may include:

  • Stress
  • Depression or anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Substance use
  • Medications
  • Irregular sleep schedules
  • Another sleep disorder
  • Lack of sleep
  • Neurological conditions


Your primary doctor will likely refer you to a sleep specialist who will further analyze your sleep behavior. You will be asked questions about your medical and sleep history, and they may recommend a polysomnogram (sleep study).


The type of parasomnia you are experiencing and the severity will determine the recommended treatment. Treatment options may include:

    • Medication if you experience recurring or frequent episodes.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may be recommended since parasomnia is sometimes linked to mental health conditions like anxiety and stress.
  • Home treatments such as scheduled awakenings and creating a safer sleep environment may help in some cases.

Let DreamZz Sleep Center Help You Get a Restful Night’s Sleep

The good thing is that parasomnias are treatable. If you or someone you love is experiencing abnormal sleep behaviors, especially if these behaviors lead to injury or disruptive sleep, it’s imperative to seek medical assistance, and we can help. 

At DreamZz Sleep Center, we know how important sleep is, and we want to help you get back to a restful night’s sleep. Our experienced team will help you get treatment fast. Some major sleep facilities will put you on a waitlist, not DreamZz Sleep Center. You can get from your initial consultation to treatment in less than a month!

Contact us today to get a restful night’s sleep!