Most people picture sleep as a time when our brains and bodies are calm and immobile. For many this is not the case. They have unusual experiences during sleep that are distressing such as sleepwalking, talking, night terrors, bruxism (teeth grinding), and even violent behaviors. This general category of sleep disorders is called parasomnias and there are many different types that require expert evaluation and sometimes an overnight sleep study to properly diagnose. Proper medical evaluation is important because medical disorders such as seizure activity may be mistaken for parasomnias.
Many parasomnias are common during childhood and are not considered abnormal. For most people they tend to disappear by puberty. For others the parasomnias continue into adulthood or may start for the first time later in life. Parasomnias are more likely to occur during times of stress or sleep deprivation. Treatment is usually only necessary if these behaviors are causing distress or problems, such as getting injured because of sleepwalking during the night. When treatment is warranted, it may consist of behavioral strategies such as stress management, increasing sleep time, scheduled awakenings, and/or medications.