Sleep disorders are a part of more than 40 million American's lives. It is estimated that 60 percent of adults have sleep problems at least a few nights a week and as a result more than 40 percent of adults experience mild to severe daytime sleepiness. Children also experience sleep troubles, with 69 percent of kids presenting problems several nights a week. There are many variations of sleep disorders, including parasomnias. A parasomnia is a disturbance in the sleep cycle that is characterized by physiological states and behaviors usually only presented in the waking state. Parasomnias have been noted as more frequent in children than adults and are often associated with stress and depression in addition to biological factors. Many parasomnias can have serious consequences; the sleeper can potentially injure a bedmate or themselves, prevent others from sleeping, and even wake themselves up. Examples of parasomnias include sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and sleeptalking.
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, happens during Stage 4 sleep and is a partial arousal in which the person is not in full consciousness. A sleepwalker might roam the building, change clothes, eat and even go to the bathroom. On rare occasions it has been reported that a sleepwalker drove during sleep. After most episodes of sleepwalking, the sleeper generally does not remember their actions.
Sleep terrors also occur during Stage 4 sleep. Sleep terrors are characterized by a piercing scream and extreme panic. The sleeper usually springs up with eyes open, sweating, rapid breathing, and heart rate raised to two or more times the norm. After about 5 to 15 minutes the person falls back to sleep. As many as 5 percent of children suffer from sleep terrors, and the rate decreases to only 1 percent in adulthood. Sleep terrors in adolescence are not necessarily alarming, however if episodes continue into adulthood a serious problem could be the cause. In adults,...
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