WHO Guide to Mental and Neurological Health in Primary Care
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Homepage :: Adult disorders :: Sleep problems :: Parasomnias :: Diagnostic features

Diagnostic features

Primary parasomnias:

  • Pre-sleep period or sleep onset: sleep starts (sudden jerk or sensation often alarming); rhythmic movements, eg headbanging, rocking
  • Early in the night in light non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep: teeth grinding, periodic limb movements (repetitive jerky movements)
  • Early in the night in deep NREM sleep: confusional arousals (mainly in young children), sleepwalking, sleep (night) terrors
  • Later in the night in REM (ie dreaming) sleep: nightmares, REM sleep behaviour disorder (in which dreams are acted out)
  • On waking: sleep paralysis
  • At various times during sleep: sleep talking, sleep-related eating disorders.

Secondary parasomnias:

  • Physical: nocturnal epilepsy, awakenings associated with sleep-related breathing difficulties
  • Psychiatric: panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, pseudoparasomnias (when the person is actually awake).

Last edited: 27/10/2003

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