Arousal disorders are parasomnia disorders presumed to be due to an abnormal arousal mechanism. Forced arousal from sleep can induce episodes. The “classical” arousal disorders are sleepwalking(somnambulism), sleep terrors and confusional arousals. Experts believe the various types of arousal disorders are related and share some characteristics. These arousals occur when a person is in a mixed state of being both asleep and awake, generally coming from the deepest stage of nondreaming sleep. This means a person is awake enough to act out complex behaviors but still asleep and not aware or able to remember these actions.
What are the causes arousal disorders?
These disorders tend to run in families and are more common in children. Being over tired, having a fever or taking certain medications may make it worse. Because disorders of arousal are less common in adults, having an evaluation is important. In some cases, these disorders are triggered by other conditions, such as sleep apnea, heartburn, or periodic limb movement during sleep. A sleep specialist should evaluate the person’s behaviors and medical history.
How are arousal disorders treated?
If it is a severe case that leads to injury or involves violence, excessive eating, or disturbs the bedpartner or family, treatment by a sleep specialist may be necessary. Treatment might involve medical intervention with perscription drugs or behavior modification through hypnosis or relaxation/mental imagery.
SOURCE: Kryger, Meir H., Roth, Thomas, Dement, William C. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: W.B. Saunders Company, 1994