Non-REM Sleep Parasomnias

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2023 Aug 1;29(4):1117-1129. doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000001261.


Objective: Non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) parasomnias are common across the lifespan. This article describes the manifestations, diagnosis, and management of non-REM parasomnias in adults and discusses the social implications of these conditions.

Latest developments: Non-REM parasomnias represent a hybrid state of wakefulness and sleep, often triggered by events that increase the frequency of arousals or make it more difficult to fully arouse from sleep. Sleep deprivation, certain medications, and untreated obstructive sleep apnea are known to provoke parasomnias, particularly in those who are genetically predisposed. Non-REM parasomnias include disorders of arousal (ie, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and confusional arousals), sleep-related eating disorder, and exploding head syndrome. Clinical overlap exists between sleep-related eating disorder and disorders of arousal, suggesting that sleep-related eating disorder may be a fourth disorder of arousal or a manifestation of sleepwalking. Exploding head syndrome is a unique parasomnia of uncertain etiology.

Essential points: Non-REM parasomnias can range from minor nuisances to severe, life-altering events. While some patients with non-REM parasomnia experience significant consequences during sleep, wakefulness, or both, non-REM parasomnias do not pose a major risk to most patients. For all patients with non-REM parasomnias, safety should be explicitly discussed and addressed. Nonpharmacologic treatment should be prioritized, as increasing total sleep time, avoiding triggering substances, and treating comorbid sleep disorders is often sufficient for the management of non-REM parasomnias. If symptoms persist despite these interventions, treatment with clonazepam or other medications can be considered.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Parasomnias* / diagnosis
  • Parasomnias* / therapy
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Duration
  • Somnambulism* / diagnosis
  • Somnambulism* / therapy
  • Wakefulness