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Sleep Disorders

`Thrashing` Sleep Disorder

12/05/2007

Question:

When my son was 2 I found a book that described something called "Thrashing" and it was a perfect description of what my son was doing. It said he would grow out of it at about 4 years old, which he did. He was fine, I eneded up with Mono! However, over the years he would revisit it from time to time, only now he is 150 lbs! I wonder what life will be like for his furture spouse...early, I know, but I was wondering if there any treatment or therapy for this? Will it last his life time? What things might trigger the episodes? I have not been able to find anything on it for adults. Thanks!

Answer:

It's difficult to provide you with an exact answer as a lot more information would be needed to better determine what might be causing your son's problems. It's not entirely clear what you mean by "thrashing" and a better description would be helpful. In addition, knowing the age of your son and what, if any, other associated sleep symptoms your son might have would help to clarify the picture.

The type of behavior you describe, "thrashing" in sleep, will be assumed to be movements in sleep. This could be due to a large number of factors, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), periodic limb movements in sleep, seizures or a possible parasomnia. OSA is characterized by loud snoring, breathing pauses in sleep, unrefreshing sleep and daytime sleepiness. If your son displays any of these symptoms, then OSA should be considered. Periodic limb movement disorder manifests a frequent leg twitching or jerking during sleep only. Seizures at night most commonly occur in individuals who have seizures during the daytime, though night-time only seizures can occur.

Parasomnias are a group of disorders characterized by undesirable physical events or experiences that occur during entry into sleep, within sleep or during arousal from sleep. There are a number of different parasomnias, ranging from sleepwalking and sleep terrors to behaviors associated with dreams to a number of other sleep-related behaviors (such as eating during sleep, bedwetting, etc). The causes of these parasomnias are not entirely known. Many cases of these conditions are idiopathic, meaning we don't know for sure what causes these behaviors.

In order to determine if there is an identifiable cause for your son's symptoms, a thorough history and physical examination are needed as well as probably a sleep study. Evaluation by a Sleep Specialist should be considered to make sure the appropriate type of sleep study is performed, if it is indicated. Most sleep disorders can be effectively treated, so your son should not expect to have this the rest of his life.

If you would like additional information regarding sleep and sleep disorders, you can obtain it on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website also contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so you can locate one near you if need be. Good luck!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University