Parasomnia (Disorders of Arousals) in children
Parasomnias are a group of childhood sleep disorders where the child can have unwanted events or experiences while the child is falling asleep, sleeping or waking up from sleep. Parasomnias may include abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions or dreams. Although the behaviours may be complex and appear purposeful to others, the child remains asleep during the event and does not have any memory of the event the next days. Hence, the child cannot recall any thing the next day in the morning.
The common childhood parasomnias are sleep walking, confusional arousals and sleep terrors.
Sleep Walking is a disorder of arousal where the child wakes up from sleep and walks out of bed. These episodes can range from simple aimless walking to complex behaviours like leaving the house unclothed in extreme weather conditions, walking off a balcony, driving an automobile or urinating at inappropriate places. During an episode, sleepwalkers typically do not respond to attempts at redirection. Forceful restraining is not advised unless a high risk for injury exists.
Confusional arousals are partial awakenings from sleep, also known as sleep drunkenness. The child typically sits up in a disoriented state and has some mumbling, confused motoric activity without moving out of bed. The episode is typically brief in duration, lasting for a few minutes. The child is usually does not respond to commands from parents during the episode. The child usually does not recollect the event the next day morning.
Sleep terrors (also known as night terrors) are disorder of arousal that starts abruptly with a scream and the child wakes up. Sleep terrors consist of episodes of intense fright accompanied by loud crying or screaming in which the child appears terrified and inconsolable. It is usually not possible to console the child during a sleep terror. Typically, the behaviours are non-injurious but can cause significant concern to parents.