Parasomnias involve actions over which you have no deliberate control. You remain asleep or in a sleep-like state during an episode. As a result you are unaware of what is taking place. You are unable to make conscious decisions during the event.
This makes it important for you to act before an episode occurs. Preventing parasomnias will reduce unwanted sleep disturbances for you and those in your household.
Begin by talking to your doctor anytime you have a sleep problem that is disturbing or harmful. Then follow these ten tips for preventing parasomnias:
- Get a full night of sleep every night.
Sleep deprivation plays a common role in many of the parasomnias. Try to get a full night of sleep every night to keep your body and mind well rested. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Teens need about nine hours of nightly sleep. Toddlers and schoolchildren need about nine to 14 hours of total daily sleep, depending on their age.
- Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule.
Episodes of a parasomnia can occur when you don’t go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. You should try to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule even on holidays and weekends.
- Seek treatment for any other sleep disorders that may be present.
Sleep disorders that disrupt your sleep may trigger episodes of a parasomnia. Two examples of these disorders are obstructive sleep apnea and periodic limb movements. Effective treatments are available for both of these problems. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned that you may have another sleep disorder.
- Seek treatment for other medical conditions that may be present.
Some medical conditions also may play a role in the occurrence of a parasomnia. These include breathing problems, stroke and Parkinson disease. Treating other medical problems first may reduce episodes of a parasomnia.
- Talk to your doctor about the medications you currently take.
Certain medications can cause parasomnias as a side effect. If this occurs, then your doctor may need to adjust your dose or prescribe another drug.
- Use sleeping pills properly.
Parasomnias can be a rare side effect of sleeping pills. Episodes are more likely to occur if you use sleeping pills improperly. Carefully follow the instructions that come with your medication.
In general, you should only take sleeping pills when you have enough time to get a full night of sleep. In most cases you should take them just before going to bed. Be sure that you only take the amount of the sleeping pills that your doctor prescribes. Never drink alcohol when using sleeping pills.
Read Guidelines for Taking Sleep Medications from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Make adjustments to your work schedule.
Shift-work schedules can cause you to sleep poorly. This can trigger episodes of a parasomnia. Some parasomnias also are more likely to occur when someone has to force you awake during the night. This may happen if your job requires you to respond to emergencies or provide urgent medical care.
Discuss your sleep problem with your doctor and your employer. See if you can find ways to improve your sleep by making changes to your work schedule.
- Seek help if you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression.
Stress, anxiety and depression may be related to some parasomnias. Talk to your doctor if you struggle with one of these problems. He or she may refer you to a therapist for more help.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
Alcohol disrupts your sleep and causes you to wake up more often during the night. It is a common factor in episodes of some parasomnias.
- Don’t use drugs.
Some parasomnias also may be related to the use and abuse of drugs.
Reviewed by Nilesh Davé, MD
Updated May 29, 2009