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Parasomnia disorders

What are Parasomnias? 

Parasomnia disorders involve some type of abnormal behavior during sleep, such as walking or talking.  Parasomnias may be categorized as primary parasomnias – disorders of sleep states – or secondary parasomnias – disorders of other organ systems that may manifest during sleep, including seizures, respiratory dyskinesias, and gastroesophageal reflux.


  • Sudden partial awakening associated with confusion and disorientation
  • Sleepwalking, or arousal with complex motor behaviors like walking, running, talking or eating
  • Nightmares and Night Terrors
  • Paralysis occurring near the onset or end of sleep or during awakenings
  • Repetitive grinding of the teeth during sleep



In patients with parasomnias that are not attributable to a general medical condition, physical findings are either absent or nonspecific. Any physical findings would be associated with the complications of the particular parasomnia sleep disorder. Your doctor may suggest that you go to a sleep clinic and undergo an overnight sleep study for diagnosis of your sleep problem.


Although parasomnias are among the most common clinical sleep disturbances in childhood, little is known about the underlying neurophysiologic mechanisms and neurotransmitter systems responsible for their development. Treatment strategies involving pharmacologic and behavioral interventions, including hypnosis and relaxation/mental imagery therapy, have been developed.

Treatment of Parasomnias at Hopkins Children’s

Parasomnia sleep disorders are diagnosed and treated by physicians and clinical staff at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Sleep Center. For an evaluation at the sleep clinic at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, or for a sleep study at the sleep laboratory at the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, please call 410-955-2035.