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Parasomnia: Types, Symptoms, & Causes

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Up to date
Update: April 27, 2023
4 min read

Written by

Arun Das
Content Writer

Parasomnia is a sleep disorder where unusual or abnormal events disrupt our sleep. It can occur during any sleep stage. If you suffer from parasomnia, you might talk or move around in your sleep, making it utterly difficult to enjoy a peaceful sleep. This article explains parasomnia, its symptoms, causes, and more. 

What is parasomnia?

Parasomnia‘s definition states that it is a sleep disorder causing unusual or unwanted physical events that can hamper your sleep. This sleep disorder can occur during any sleep stage, even as you are transitioning from wakefulness to sleep. When you have parasomnia, you may talk or move around in your sleep. So, if you sleep with a partner, there are chances that they might feel that you are awake while you are asleep.

You may usually not remember a parasomnia episode. Additionally, parasomnia can be dangerous because you are entirely unaware of what is happening around you. 

Types of Parasomnia

Let’s dig deeper into the types of parasomnias and understand a little about them. 

Non-REM sleep is the first three stages of sleep, right from the time you fall asleep to almost the first half of the night. Parasomnia episodes are also known as arousal disorders. Here, you are not completely aware of any verbal or physical activity that you may go through. It usually occurs between the ages of 5 and 25 and with someone with a family history of arousal disorders.

Rapid eye movement occurs after the first three stages of Non-REM sleep. It is when you dream. So, if you have a parasomnia episode during this time and wake up, you may be able to recall a part or the whole dream. Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis, nightmare disorder or REM sleep behaviour disorder occurs during this stage.

Other Parasomnias

Some other parasomnias include;

Exploding head syndrome

In this disorder, you experience a loud sound or a crashing noise in your head as you are falling asleep or waking up. 

Bedwetting or sleep enuresis

It is not the same type of bedwetting that occurs in young children, and for it to be parasomnia, it must happen at least twice a week for three or more months. 

You may experience hallucinations as you are falling asleep or waking up. For instance, you may feel some movement, which doesn’t exist. 

In this sleep disorder, you make loud groaning or grunting noises followed by sighs. 


People suffering from this disorder carry out sexual acts during the parasomnia episodes. It includes masturbation, fondling, intercourse or even sexual assault. 

What Are the Causes of Parasomnias?

Let’s take a look at what causes parasomnia. It can be associated with multiple disorders or several causes.

  • Stress
  • Neurological issues, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Insomnia 
  • Irregular sleep patterns 
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • PTSD

Symptoms of parasomnia

One of the most prominent parasomnia symptoms includes behavioural disorders. Apart from that, you may;

  • Wake up feeling confused
  • You may wonder where you are as soon as you wake up 
  • Experience daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Unable to sleep through the night
  • Unable to remember to do certain activities
  • Finding unfamiliar injuries on the body

How are parasomnias diagnosed?

Your doctor may take a look at your medical and sleep history to analyse the condition. Sometimes, your primary healthcare physician may also consult a sleep therapist to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on your symptoms and severity, your doctor will devise the right plan. 

Treatments for parasomnias

Parasomnia treatment depends on the severity of your condition and its type. So, some of the most common treatments on how to stop parasomnia include;


If you have frequent or severe parasomnia, your doctor may recommend medications as per your symptoms. However, sometimes the condition may occur due to certain medications, so in such cases, the medication may be altered. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the common treatment plans for parasomnia, especially if it is related to mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. It includes psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, and also hypnosis. 

Scheduled Awakening 

You can set alarms or ask someone to wake you up approximately 15 to 30 minutes before you wake up spontaneously. Finally, ensure the home environment is safe and remove any dangerous items, if nearby. 

When to See a Doctor?

If you have been experiencing abnormal sleep behavioural problems or notice unexplained injuries or sleep disruption regularly, it is important to see a doctor. 


Parasomnia can make it difficult for you to enjoy quality sleep and can also put you in danger. Therefore, if you notice any symptoms you must see a doctor as it is treatable. 


What triggers parasomnia?

Parasomnias usually run in the family and brain or sleep disorders may trigger an episode.

What are the symptoms of parasomnias?

All the symptoms of parasomnia are given in the article above. Some of the most common symptoms however are abnormal sleep behavior noticed by a parent or a partner, waking up confused or waking up with unexplained injuries.

What is Sexsomnia?

Sexsomnia is a parasomnia disorder where you carry out sexual acts while asleep, such as masturbation and even intercourse.

Can a woman masturbate while asleep?

Yes, if they are suffering from sexsomnia, they may masturbate while asleep.


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Written by

Arun Das
Content Writer
With a Master's Degree in Mass Communication and nearly two decades of professional expertise in crafting healthcare articles, he possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field.

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