Insufficient or disrupted sleep can be a profoundly isolating experience. All around you, it seems, the bright-eyed and well-rested go merrily about their days, while you're calculating exactly how many double espressos you can neck throughout your shift before you pass out. Sound familiar? You could very well have a sleep disorder. But how can you tell? Parasomnia. I know, I hadn't heard of that term before today either. So what is parasomnia?
The National Sleep Foundation defines parasomnia as "all the abnormal things that can happen to people while they sleep", excluding sleep apnoea. "Parasomnias cover quite a range of events, and some people might not realise they’re experiencing a parasomnia," sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley of the Sleep Consultancy tells me. The most common parasomnias, he explains, are sleepwalking and sleep talking, and most can be resolved by tackling stress or anxiety, or limiting alcohol consumption. Parasomnias are "perfectly normal and natural," Dr. Stanley stresses, but if recurring, they have the potential to disrupt sleep.
"If you're doing something every once in a while — say every time you have a beer, you experience a parasomnia, then it's probably the beer, so stop it. It's that obvious for some people," Dr. Stanley explains, adding, "but if you’re doing these things on a day-to-day basis, the best thing to do is see a GP."
Wondering if you're dealing with a parasomnia? Read on to discover some of the most common examples, which could indicate a sleep disorder.