Parasomnias are sleep disorders that involve undesirable events and experiences. These behaviors are common in children. For the most part, they are a normal part of childhood.

Some of these disorders are similar to one another. They share some common features. The following chart will help you distinguish one parasomnia from another.

Although they tend to be common and harmless, parasomnias can be a severe problem for some children. You should contact an AASM accredited sleep disorders center if a sleep problem greatly disturbs your child.

. Nightmare disorder Sleep terrors Sleepwalking Confusional arousals
How many children it affects Almost all Less than 10 percent Less than 20 percent Less than 20 percent
Age when it is most common Between 6 and 10 years Between 4 and 12 years Between 8 and 12 years Under 5 years
Primary emotion Fear Fear and confusion Confusion Confusion
Behavior Wakes up suddenly Sits up and screams Gets out of bed and walks Sits up and stares ahead, thrashes around in bed
Appearance Afraid and alert Terrified and confused, shaking and sweating Calm Agitated and confused
Sounds Cries and describes a dream Loud scream or cry Quiet Confused speech, cries or yells
Response Seeks comforting Unresponsive or resists comforting Unresponsive Agitated and resists comforting
Return to normal sleep Delayed Rapid Rapid Rapid
Memory of the event Clear recall No recall Little or no recall Little or no recall

Originally published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine July 11, 2007