Sleep apnea associated to sleepwalking, hallucinations, and different “parasomnias”

Nearly 1 in 10 people with obstructive apnea also experience “parasomnia” symptoms such as sleepwalking, hallucinations, and living out their dreams, a study by the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found.

The researchers examined records of 537 adult apnea patients evaluated at the Loyola Center for Sleep in Maywood and Oak Brook Terrace. Fifty-one patients, or 9.5 percent of the total, reported one or more types of parasomnia symptoms.

Parasomnia symptoms included sleep paralysis (21 patients), sleep-related hallucinations (16 patients), acting out dreams (11 patients), sleepwalking (5 patients), and eating while sleeping (one patient).

The results were published at Sleep 2009, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, held in Seattle that year.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a partial or complete blockage of the airways. Every time this happens the brain is stimulated to resume breathing. This disrupts sleep and the patient may feel chronically tired during the day.

Previous studies found that obstructive sleep apnea was linked to a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, and irregular heartbeat. The new study suggests that apnea is also linked to increased parasomnia symptoms.

Parasomnia include sleep paralysis (brief episodes of inability to move), hallucinations between waking and sleeping, acting out dreams (punching, kicking, screaming, etc.), and walking, eating, or even driving a car while asleep.

Because it interrupts sleep, apnea can prepare a person for parasomnia, said Dr. Nidhi S. Undevia, lead researcher on the study. “If you’re predisposed to parasomnia, apnea could make it worse,” Undevia said. Undevia is the Medical Director of the Loyola Center for Sleep and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Undevia said doctors should ask apnea patients if they have symptoms of parasomnia. “We need to start asking because we are overlooking potentially dangerous or harmful behavior,” she said.

Other co-authors are the Loyola sleep specialist Dr. Sunita Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Stritch School of Medicine and lead author Dr. Mari Viola-Saltzman, a sleep doctor at the University of Washington. During the study, Viola-Saltzman was a resident neurologist at Loyola University Hospital.

Viola-Saltzman said that in addition to screening patients for snoring, apnea, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness, “may also consider asking about symptoms of parasomnia to see if the patient has obstructive sleep apnea.”

History source:

Materials provided by Loyola University Health System. Note: The content can be edited for style and length.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *