Parasomnias are sleeping disorders that are associated with unusual behaviours or movements or waking during sleep. It can happen to anyone, especially children, and these include:

  • Nightmares – frightening, disturbing and unpleasant dreams which often wakes the person up from sleep. Nightmares are vivid images and can be recalled the next morning.
  • Night terrors (pavor nocturnes) – Similar to nightmares, but children normally will not remember anything the next morning, while adults may remember fragments of it.
  • Sleep walking (somnambulism) – occurs when a person seems to be awake and moving about but is still sleeping. The sleepwalker has no recollection of what happened the night before.
  • Sleep talking (somniloquy) – a person who sleep-talks can make long speeches or simple sounds which may or may not make sense. A sleep-talker normally does not know his actions the night before.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) – involves grinding teeth while sleeping. This can wear down the teeth and can cause jaw pain.
  • Sleep paralysis (muscle atonia) – causes momentary inability to move one’s body and limbs upon awakening or falling asleep even though the person is fully aware of it.
  • Sleep-related hallucinations (hypnogogic or hypnopompic) – vivid visual, auditory, tactile sensation that occur at the onset of sleep (hypnogogic) or upon awakening (hypnopompic).
  • Confusional arousals – usually seen in children and often associated with thrashing or crying during sleep. The child will appear awake and may look confused or upset and is slow to react.
  • Catathrenia (sleep-related groaning) – occurs when a sleeping person inhales deeply, holds his breath, then let out a squeaking noise or groan when exhaling.
  • Bedwetting (sleep enuresis) – refers to unintentional urination during sleep in children over the age of 5.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – causes a person to physically act out his dreams during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The actions are often violent and action-filled and may bring injury to oneself or the bed partner.

Frequent occurrence of parasomnia might cause sleep disruption and lead to excessive daytime fatigue, or insomnia.


Many of the parasomnias are behaviours and experiences activated by the central nervous system. Parasomnias can occur in any stage of the sleep cycle.

Parasomnias tend to be more common in children than adults. These disorders are often hereditary, and may be triggered by obstructive sleep apnoea, sleep-disordered breathing, enlarged tonsils, stress, medications, alcohol consumption (for adults), or when a child is sick or overly tired.


In most cases, these sleep disturbances begin to stop as the child gets older. This doesn’t mean they should be ignored. They can be quite traumatic. Consult a qualified doctor for examinations if it happens frequently. It may pinpoint a biological cause for the events and help improve a more serious condition. If the parasomnias are related to an underlying medical or mental health condition, treatment can then be targeted at the underlying problem.

We offer hospital-based and home-based sleep study for your convenience. Consult our senior specialist Dr YT Pang at CENTAS for an accurate diagnosis of your sleep problem.