Feature Article

A guide to parasomnias

Peter R Buchanan, Brendon J Yee

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Abstract

Parasomnias are relatively common. Most can be successfully managed, if necessary, with pharmacotherapy.

Key Points

  • Many of the parasomnias have distinguishing features that can be gleaned from the clinical history and occasionally from the physical examination and investigative studies.
  • It may be necessary to differentiate parasomnias from each other and from sleep related epilepsy.
  • Specialist investigation may be required in some circumstances, such as when sleep behaviours are complicated, injurious or threatening, and sometimes in medicolegal circumstances.
  • For straightforward cases of sleep walking in childhood, providing explanation and reassurance may be all that is necessary.
  • Simple safety precautions should be advised when parasomnia behaviour is potentially harmful.
  • Most parasomnias will respond favourably to pharmacotherapy, if required.

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