Symptoms and Signs of Disorders That Disrupt Sleep (Parasomnias)

Doctor's Notes on Disorders That Disrupt Sleep (Parasomnias)

Parasomnias are sleep-related disorders that disrupt sleep. They are characterized by undesirable physical or verbal behaviors or experiences. The most common types of parasomnias include nightmare disorder (also called dream anxiety attack), sleep terror disorder, sleepwalking disorder, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), and restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder.

Symptoms of parasomnias depend on the disorder. Symptoms of nightmare disorder include frightening dreams and arousal during the dream. Symptoms of sleep terror disorder include a sudden arousal, crying out or screaming when the person is aroused, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, flushing, sweating, muscle spasms, incoherent speech, unresponsive to external stimuli, passing of urine, and, when awakened, is confused, disoriented, and does not remember the event. Symptoms of sleepwalking disorder include behaviors that range from simply sitting up in bed to walking, eating, or talking. Upon awakening, the person often is confused and does not remember the event. Symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder include acting out of dreams that can include punching, kicking, leaping, and running from the bed. Arousals from sleep to alertness occur rapidly, and dreams can be vividly recalled. Symptoms of restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder discomfort in the legs (described as pulling, searing, crawling, creeping, and boring) that is relieved by moving the legs, walking about, rubbing the legs, squeezing or stroking the legs, and by taking hot showers or baths.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Sleep : Sleep Hygiene & Sleep Facts Quiz

Sleep Quiz

Why do we sleep?

See Answer


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.