Sleep is a vital aspect of our daily lives, as it plays a crucial role in maintaining physical and mental health. However, for some, sleep is ruined by a nightly battle with parasomnias - a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, or dreams during sleep. These disorders can cause a relentless cycle of disrupted sleep and even impact overall quality of life. The anxiety and dread that accompany the thought of falling asleep can make the idea of rest seem out of reach, but with the right support, it may be possible to transform bedtime from a source of anxiety into a sanctuary for peaceful, restful sleep.
Parasomnias encompass a variety of disruptive behaviors or experiences that occur during different stages of sleep. Some common types include:
Sleepwalking (Somnambulism): People with this disorder may sit up in bed, walk around, and even perform complex activities such as cooking, while still asleep. This usually happens in the 1st third of the night during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). Sleepwalking often runs in families.
Sleep Talking (Somniloquy): Sleep talking is a common type of parasomnia which involves speaking during sleep without the individual's awareness. An estimated two in three people talk in their sleep at some point in their lives. It's especially common in children. Sleep talking can occur in both NREM sleep and deep REM sleep. In lighter stages 1 and 2, you may have an entire conversation. In deeper stages 3 and 4, you are likely to speak incoherent gibberish.
Sleep-related Eating: This parasomnia involves eating and drinking during the night without conscious awareness and little to no memory of ever getting out of bed. Not only does this sometimes lead to weight gain, but more dangerous is that some people may ingest non-edible foods that can be toxic or cause food poisoning. This usually occurs during the first few hours of sleep during NREM.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Sleep bruxism is when someone clenches and grinds the teeth during sleep due to anger, fear, or stress. It can lead to dental problems and jaw pain lasting throughout the day. The majority of sleep bruxism takes place early in the sleep cycle, during stages 1 and 2 of NREM sleep. A small percentage of episodes can arise during REM sleep.
Sleep Paralysis: During sleep paralysis, individuals are temporarily unable to move or speak due to loss of muscle control. This is often accompanied by vivid hallucinations and a sense of impending danger. The brain is active, but the body is in sleep mode which causes the temporary episode that usually lasts no longer than 1 or 2 minutes. Sleep paralysis usually occurs while you are falling asleep (hypnagogic) or when you are waking up (hypnopompic).
Night Terrors: When experiencing night terrors, individuals will suddenly wake up in a terrified state and may find themselves screaming, sweating, and kicking, often with no memory of what created the episode upon waking. This usually occurs during NREM sleep. Genetics may be a factor causing this disturbance, but most often it is due to extreme stress. Adults are less likely to experience night terrors, but if they had a childhood history of them, it may make a recurrence later in life.
While traditional treatments have been effective for some, hypnosis for sleep disorders is another useful tool in the field of sleep medicine. Hypnotherapy can complement these treatments by addressing the root causes and reducing the occurrence and severity of parasomnia episodes with rapid effectiveness. Many parasomnias are triggered or exacerbated by stress and anxiety. Hypnosis can address, manage, and reduce these factors, promoting relaxation and helping those suffering to reclaim restful, undisturbed sleep. Hypnotherapy creates new pathways in the subconscious mind, helping clients break the cycle of the parasomnias through suggestions of alternative behaviors during sleep, and also improving their memory and awareness of these occurrences. This can be valuable for those who experience disruptive episodes but have limited recollection upon waking, enabling them to understand and manage their condition more effectively.
If you are struggling with parasomnias or any other sleep related issues, schedule a free consultation to discuss if hypnotherapy may be an option for you. It's usually necessary to consult with a healthcare professional for sleep disorders, so we will work together to consult with your care providers to create a treatment plan that is right for you.