Parasomnias Often Under-Recognized, Misunderstood
Research points way to new treatments for sleepwalking, sleep sex, and other parasomnias.
Sleep Sex, Sleep Eating continued...
Shapiro and Guilleminault have each published research
describing 11 patients with symptoms of sexsomnia that ranged from loud,
disruptive moaning to sexual assault. Regardless of how unusual or violent the
behavior, Guilleminault says his patients had no memory of the events the next
He notes that often, people who engage in
sleep sex have a history of sleepwalking, REM behavior disorders, apnea,
bed-wetting, or other sleep-related problems, to name a few. Some even have
"That's a big find," Guilleminault
says. "It suggests we can treat the seizures and eliminate the
Shapiro urges people to have an open
dialogue about any abnormal sexual behavior during sleep with their doctors.
"Just recognizing that sexsomnia is a sleep disorder is a step in the right
direction," he says. "Now that we know it is possible and doctors start
to ask the right questions, we will start to learn more about
The medical community has also been slow to
recognize sleep eating as a medical condition, says Lea Montgomery, RN, MS, an
instructor at Texas Christian University Harris School of Nursing in Fort
Worth, who has written review articles on the disorder. "I had one woman
frantic to get help; she had been sleep eating for 13 years. She tried to get
help but wasn't taken seriously."
Sleep eaters get up to nosh as many as 12
times a night, Montgomery tells WebMD. "It's messy, primitive eating --
butter right out of the butter dish, salt out of the saltshaker -- not what
they would normally eat during the day," she says.
A Good Night's Sleep
Doctors still don't know the cause of sleep
sex or sleep eating. But, experts agree, the best way to combat any sleep woe
is to practice good sleep habits:
- Eat right
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid stress
- Avoid or at least limit alcohol and caffeine
- Don't eat or drink too close to bedtime
- Go the bed at the same time each night
If symptoms of parasomnia persist, you may
want to seek help at an accredited sleep center, the specialists say. The
American Academy of Sleep Medicine maintains a list of accredited sleep centers
around the country.