Typically the time you spend sleeping is when your body gets to rest and restore. For people with parasomnias, sleep is not so restful. Parasomnias occur in a state that lies between sleep and wakefulness. A person with parasomnias may seem to be alert, walking or talking or eating or doing other such activities but without awareness because the brain is only partially awake. Or a person with a different type of parasomnias may experience sleep terrors or sleep paralysis—these are also a result of the brain being slightly more conscious than usual during sleep.
Although more common in children, parasomnias can occur at any age. Parasomnias are not in and of themselves worrisome; the main danger is when a person with the condition unknowingly causes injury to themselves or to others.
“Parasomnias can sometimes be more frightening for the observer than for the person having it,” says Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, a Yale Medicine sleep specialist at the Sleep Medicine program. “For example, a child having a sleep terror looks very frightened and this can be very difficult for a parent, but the child will have no memory of this event if awakened or in the morning.”