At Pacific Sleep Program in Astoria, Oregon, people often contact us for an evaluation after a sleeping partner or family member has told them about an abnormal behavior that they've exhibited during sleep. This is especially true of people who have a behavioral sleep disorder, also known as a parasomnia. Here, our sleep medicine experts discuss the process of sleep and symptoms of some common behavioral sleep disorders.
What are the stages of sleep?
Sleep has five cycles, which repeat themselves throughout the process of sleep and can be divided into two states: non-rapid eye movement (NREM), which makes up 75% of the sleep cycle, and rapid eye movement (REM), which accounts for the remaining 25% of the sleep period. NREM sleep (the first four cycles) are when "deep sleep" occurs. This is thought to be responsible for restoring hormone and metabolic levels.
During REM sleep, the eyes involuntarily move back and forth randomly, while the rest of the body's muscles stop moving and breathing becomes irregular. Your Astoria sleep medicine experts have observed that the brain, however, remains almost as active as it is during times of being awake. REM is the period of sleep in which most dreams occur.
What is sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking happens at some point during the NREM cycles of sleep. People who sleepwalk may simply sit up in bed, while others get out of bed and wander around the house. Others actually perform tasks like rearranging furniture, getting dressed or going to the bathroom. A sleepwalker's eyes are usually open but do not focus on anything and the person will likely not remember the activity once fully awake.
What are sleep terrors?
Like sleep walking, sleep terrors (also known as night terrors) happen during NREM sleep. While night terrors most often affect children, some adults will have them as well. They are characterized as "extreme nightmares" and can include screaming, sweating, heavy breathing and defense tactics such as punching or running. They typically do not respond to others' attempts to wake them, although they can lash out at a person who tries.
What is an REM behavioral sleep disorder?
People who have REM behavioral sleep disorder (RBD) have an abnormality in their REM sleep that disrupts the lack of muscle movement. Those with RBD have been studied by your Astoria sleep medicine professionals and found to have the same level of brain activity as others whose REM sleep is normal, but because they are able to move their bodies freely, they often "act out" their dreams, resulting in shouting, flailing, thrashing, and jumping out of bed. Unlike sleepwalking or sleep terrors, it is fairly easy to rouse someone with RBD.
Contact Your Astoria Sleep Experts
If any of these parasomnias sound like something you or a family member have experienced, we encourage you to contact Pacific Sleep Program in Astoria, Oregon for an evaluation. We look forward to helping you achieve comfortable and restful sleep!