A new study published in Sleep Medicine highlights the lack of established treatment guidelines for arousal disorders, including sleepwalking and sleep eating. Unlike other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia, which have well-researched treatment guidelines, arousal disorders present a challenge in terms of determining the most effective treatment options.
Arousal disorders encompass various conditions, including sexsomnia, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and sleep eating. These disorders can be dangerous and may result in injuries to the sleeper or their loved ones. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate and treat the symptoms of these disorders. However, the absence of consensus treatment guidelines poses a significant hurdle.
The systematic review conducted by Jennifer Mundt, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, sheds light on the potential treatments for arousal disorders. The study analyzed 72 publications from 1909 to 2023, which primarily consisted of case reports and uncontrolled trials. Mundt emphasizes the need for randomized, controlled trials to determine the efficacy of behavioral treatments for these parasomnias.
According to the study, the treatments with the most evidence of effectiveness include cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, sleep hygiene, and scheduled awakenings. Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown promise in addressing sleep disorders such as insomnia and nightmares. Hypnosis has also been effective in managing parasomnias. Additionally, establishing good sleep hygiene practices can contribute to reducing episodes of arousal disorders. Waking the sleeper shortly before the usual time of a parasomnia episode, known as scheduled awakenings, can also be beneficial.
Patients experiencing arousal disorders often have limited or no recollection of their night-time behaviors. Some may only have a vague recollection, while others may be completely unaware of what is happening during sleep. These disorders can lead to various consequences, such as self-inflicted injuries or excessive consumption of food or medication.
The prevalence of arousal disorders varies among different conditions. Sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and confusional arousals are more common in childhood and tend to remit by adolescence. On the other hand, sexsomnia and sleep-related eating typically begin in adulthood.
In summary, arousal disorders lack established treatment guidelines, leading to potential dangers for individuals affected by these conditions. The systematic review highlights the need for randomized, controlled trials to determine the efficacy of behavioral treatments for arousal disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, sleep hygiene, and scheduled awakenings show promise as potential treatment options. It is crucial to evaluate and treat the symptoms of arousal disorders to prevent injuries and improve overall well-being.
– “Behavioral and psychological treatments for NREM parasomnias: A systematic review” by Jennifer M. Mundt, et al. (Sleep Medicine)